The Easy 10-Step Section 508 Compliance Checklist
Don’t know where to start with Section 508 compliance?
This 10-step checklist breaks down the requirements into simple steps that you can follow to make your Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) accessible.
Meet the requirements of the Rehabilitation Act and ensure that your EIT is accessible to all users with this comprehensive Section 508 compliance checklist.
Introduction: The Basics of Section 508 Compliance
Meeting the guidelines of Section 508 compliance can be a challenge for organizations. In this section, we will provide an overview of Section 508 compliance and discuss the challenges organizations may face in meeting these guidelines.
What is Section 508?
Section 508 is a federal law that requires electronic and information technology (EIT) to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. This section explains the purpose of Section 508 and its applicability to organizations. While Section 508 compliance is mandatory for federal agencies and organizations receiving federal financial assistance, it is also advisable for any organization that provides EIT to the public or employees with disabilities. This section clarifies the scope of Section 508 compliance and who should strive to meet these standards.
ADA vs. Section 508 Compliance: Understanding the Differences
ADA, The Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990, is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities across various aspects of public life. It covers employment, transportation, public accommodations, and communications. ADA also necessitates that organizations make their websites and digital services accessible to people with disabilities.ADA applies to organizations of all types and sizes. This encompasses private businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. It is a broad-ranging law that holds all entities accountable for ensuring accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
In the realm of digital accessibility, it’s important to differentiate between ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance and Section 508 compliance. While both strive to enhance accessibility for individuals with disabilities, they encompass distinct regulations, scopes, and target audiences. Let’s delve into the key differences between ADA and Section 508 compliance:
Is Section 508 compliance mandatory for every organization?
Section 508 is specifically applicable to federal agencies and their contractors. Private businesses and organizations are not legally obligated to comply with Section 508. However, it is highly encouraged for them to strive for compliance to ensure technology accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
Non-compliance with ADA is dealt with by the Department of Justice, which has the authority to initiate civil lawsuits against non-compliant organizations.
In contrast, non-compliance with Section 508 is handled by the Access Board, which can issue fines to non-compliant organizations.
To achieve ADA compliance, businesses and organizations must ensure that their technology, communication, and information are accessible to individuals with disabilities. This involves adhering to web accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and providing alternative means of access, such as audio descriptions and transcriptions.
To achieve Section 508 compliance, federal agencies must follow the specific Section 508 standards and guidelines for accessibility. These standards closely align with the WCAG guidelines. Businesses and organizations can test their websites for ADA compliance using automated tools like accessibility checkers and validators. Manual assessments are also essential to ensure accessibility to individuals with disabilities.
For Section 508 compliance, federal agencies can use the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Testing (EITAT) tool provided by the General Services Administration (GSA) to assess their websites.
Understanding 504 and 508 Compliance
While Section 508 focuses on making EIT accessible in federal agencies, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. By comprehending the distinctions between ADA and Section 508 compliance, organizations can ensure they are implementing the appropriate accessibility measures and meeting the necessary legal requirements, thereby fostering inclusivity for individuals with disabilities.
The Importance of Section 508 Compliance
Aside from meeting legal requirements, Section 508 compliance offers numerous benefits, including improved usability, increased access to information, and enhanced user experience. This section highlights the importance of prioritizing accessibility and its positive impact on organizations.
How to Achieve Section 508 Compliance?
Since January 2018, the technical requirements of Section 508 have incorporated the WCAG 2.0 A and AA success criteria. By adhering to these technical requirements, organizations can ensure compliance with Section 508 standards. This section emphasizes the significance of using a checklist for implementing WCAG guidelines effectively.
Section 508 Compliance Checklist
A compliance checklist is a valuable resource that outlines the necessary steps to improve an EIT’s accessibility. While not a comprehensive policy, it serves as a practical tool.
The following are ten concrete examples of how to check an EIT for compliance with Section 508:
- Ensure all images have alt tags accurately describing their content.
- Test videos for closed captions or transcripts.
- Verify that the text is resizable and the website offers adjustable contrast options.
- Check for sufficient color contrast, especially for text and links.
- Test the website’s tab order and focus indicators for keyboard navigation.
- Verify that electronic documents, such as PDFs, are accessible to assistive technologies.
- Test forms and interactive elements for usability with assistive technologies.
- Ensure all links have descriptive text conveying their purpose.
- Check for a clear and concise heading structure to aid readability and navigation.
- Add language attributes to cater to visitors who speak different languages.
How to Test a Website for Section 508 Compliance?
In this article, we have discussed the essential steps to achieve Section 508 compliance for your website and ensure accessibility for individuals with disabilities. Here are the key takeaways:
Understand Section 508: Familiarize yourself with the requirements of Section 508 and its applicability to your organization. Remember that while it may be mandatory for certain entities, it is advisable for all organizations to prioritize accessibility.
Use the Section 508 Compliance Checklist: Utilize the provided 10-step checklist to evaluate your website’s compliance. Check that images have descriptive alt tags, videos have captions or transcripts, text is resizable with adjustable contrast options, and color contrast is sufficient. Ensure keyboard navigation, accessibility of electronic documents, the usability of forms and interactive elements, descriptive links, clear heading structure, and language attributes.
Review WCAG Guidelines: The technical requirements of Section 508 incorporate WCAG 2.0 A and AA success criteria. Familiarize yourself with the WCAG documentation to understand the specific accessibility guidelines that need to be implemented.
Perform Automated and Manual Testing: Combine automated accessibility testing tools with manual testing to thoroughly evaluate your website’s compliance. Automated tools can help identify common accessibility issues, but manual testing is crucial for evaluating interactive elements and overall user experience.
Seek Accessibility Expertise: Consider involving accessibility experts or conducting usability testing with individuals with disabilities. Their insights and feedback can provide valuable perspectives on the accessibility of your website.
Periodically Reassess Compliance: Accessibility standards and technologies evolve over time. Regularly review and reassess your website’s compliance with Section 508 to ensure ongoing accessibility for all users.
By following these steps and using the Section 508 compliance checklist, you can proactively address accessibility barriers and create a more inclusive digital experience for individuals with disabilities.
Overcoming the Challenges:
While the challenges may seem daunting, organizations can overcome them by taking proactive steps toward Section 508 compliance:
- Education and Training: Organizations should invest in educating their teams about Section 508 compliance and the importance of digital accessibility. This includes training developers, designers, content creators, and other stakeholders involved in the digital ecosystem.
- Accessibility Guidelines and Standards: Following established accessibility guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), can serve as a roadmap for achieving Section 508 compliance. These guidelines provide specific criteria and best practices for creating accessible digital content.
- Testing and Evaluation: Regular testing and evaluation of digital resources are essential to identify accessibility barriers and address them promptly. Organizations can employ a combination of automated testing tools, manual audits, and user testing with individuals who use assistive technologies.
- Collaboration and User Feedback: Involving individuals with disabilities in the design and evaluation process can provide valuable insights and feedback. Collaborating with accessibility experts, disability advocacy groups, and user communities can help organizations gain a better understanding of accessibility requirements and ensure user-centered design.
Section 508 compliance is a critical aspect of fostering accessibility and inclusivity in the digital realm. While organizations may face challenges in meeting these guidelines, a proactive approach, education, adherence to standards, testing, and collaboration can pave the way for successful Section 508 compliance. By embracing accessibility as a fundamental principle, organizations can provide equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities to participate fully in the digital world.
Remember, Section 508 compliance is not just a legal requirement but also an opportunity to enhance usability, expand your audience, and demonstrate a commitment to accessibility and inclusivity.