All over the world, several laws requiring equal web and electronic accessibility for all are growing. In the US, Section 508 is at the forefront. It is the federal law of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law needs the information and communication technology federal agencies use, create, purchase, and own to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Section 508 remediation came about as part of the Workforce Investment Act, designed to increase US workforce members’ employment, retention, earnings, and skill attainment. With this in mind, Section 508 doesn’t apply to privately owned websites.
It does, however, require accessibility for all federal websites and electronic materials. Initially, the regulations were focused on physical spaces, but now the law expanded, and it also addresses the digital realm. Nowadays, several limitations need technology, devices, and websites to be accessible to every user. Furthermore, federal agencies and companies had a year to comply with the update and should now be in Section 508 compliance.
This article will teach valuable tactics for updating the website to comply with Section 508.
Conduct an Accessibility Audit
Conducting an accessibility audit is essential for evaluating the current state of accessibility according to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This formal evaluation involves technical experts determining the Section 508 remediation needs and assessing conformance with WCAG 2.1 AA standards, often cited as appropriate by the US Department of Justice in civil rights enforcement actions. Below you can find 508 remediation tips.
Alternative Text for Images
Alternative text means a description of what is depicted in the image. Since screen readers can conveniently read the text, people with visual disabilities know what the picture is about. In simple words, alternative images provide a specific context to the photos that users can’t see.
Section 508 compliance quiresalternative text descriptions to be accurate, descriptive, and helpful. If any links are included to the image, the user clicks on the image, and a new webpage is opened. It also needs the link destination to be mentioned in the Alternative text.
Color and Contrast
Users with visual impairment have to face some unique challenges of color and contrast. So, adding color-coded fields, labels, or icons is one of the most convenient and straightforward ways to resolve color-based accessibility issues.
To comply with Section 508 remediation guidelines, websites need you to be color smart. For example, in an online form, the green color shows that everything was entered correctly, whereas,the red color highlights an error. Moreover, people with visual disabilities also need to see a specific contrast between website elements to differentiate the content.
Navigation and Accessibility with Keyboard
Individuals with different motor disabilities or those who use screen readers heavily depend on keyboard visual indicators. It makes it very important for the website. It is because it enables interaction with assistive technology. For example, links, buttons, or input fields can be easily controlled with the tab, arrow, or other keys. It increases accessibility instead of needing a mouse click.
Furthermore, users can also use navigation just by jumping through page sections, headers, paragraphs, and other page elements. That’s why websites need to make it possible for users to navigate the platform via keyboards. It will also allow you to make each site element accessible through the keyboard.
Transcript or Captions for Videos and Audio
Transcripts and captions are initially used to represent the spoken content from videos and audio in text format. These features are also known as closed captioning. Simply put, it is just the text for the hard of hearing. However, a transcript is a text version of the content in a separate document. On the other hand, captions usually appear simultaneously with the spoken word in the video. Fortunately, several companies offer closed captioning transcript services for podcasts and videos.
Implement Remediation and Training
After you have audited your digital assets, you need Sections 508 remediation or fix the accessibility issues found. However, trusted accessibility experts can offer guidance to help prioritize the issues that look like the most severe barriers to your user experience. You also need to prevent your website from having accessibility barriers in the future.
To prevent this, it is essential to provide training to the members of your organization in accessibility best practices. You should also familiarize them with your accessibility program and processes. It helps to ensure that accessibility is developed into design and development processes by default. Therefore, your assets are produced with accessibility in mind, reducing the remediation workload in the future.
With many users with learning or cognitive disabilities, it can be pretty difficult if your organization’s website is not accessible and doesn’t cater to all users. Whether your organization is legally required to be Section 508 compliant or not, having a fully accessible website is undoubtedly a best practice to follow.
There is no doubt that you can achieve digital accessibility with the proper knowledge and tools. However, working with an expert can make the compliance process much more manageable.