The internet is an important resource that affects many aspects of life like education, commerce, healthcare, entertainment, and more. So it is essential that it is accessible to everyone including those with people with disabilities, low internet bandwidth, people with smaller screens and those with geographical barriers. Many countries have laws in place to ensure digital accessibility and section 508 is one of them. It mandates websites including the Federal Government and other commerce sites to provide equal access to information and communication technology, ICT to everyone including those with disabilities. Section 508 compliance testing helps the organizations to test if their digital content conforms to the guidelines of Section 508 laws.
As per the latest changes proposed to the revised Section 508, all federal agencies and contractors must meet all the accessibility requirements of the ICT to stay updated with the evolving digital technology. It mandates that all electronic content including documents, hardware, software, networks, multimedia, printers, apps, and operating systems should be accessible. Legally all institutions that get federal funding and federal agencies should implement 508 compliance testing and testing procedures. It includes:
NGO’s that are federally funded
Public educational institutions
Large companies that have opted to be compliant to 508
Companies that are looking for federal funding
Companies that want to provide accessible IT to users with disabilities
All other companies that want to remove barriers that restrict their potential users should implement 508 compliance testing. For private companies, though there is no legal requirement to impose section 508 it is a good practice to do so to nurture inclusivity and be accessible to everyone.
508 Compliance testing helps digital content be navigated and used. The other advantages of this are:
Is accessible to more people: When the digital content is compliant tested it ensures it reaches more number of users including those with disabilities and helps to get a wider target audience.
Less legal risk: Those that implement 508 compliance testing avoid costly lawsuits for not implementing accessibility.
Better overall experience: Section 508 compliance testing ensures that all the optimizations for the UI/UX are present providing better web experience.
The updated version of section 508 compliance instructs the organizations to implement global standards, i.e Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, WCAG 2.0. By following all the requirements of the WCAG 2.0, the digital content is compliant to most standards of compliance and is also accessible to all end users. A brief checklist for 508 compliance testing are:
Including alt-text which are text equivalent for photos, logos, or other such images that describe the images. These are essential as it helps people with vision disabilities to read the images that are contained in the content.
People who are unable to use a mouse should be able to use assistive technology or use the keyboard to fill online forms.
Ensure that the website has less flicker so that people with seizure disorders or other visual problems can see the screen without any issues.
The web page should have the right background colour and contrast so that people with colour disabilities can view the information.
Include headers and titles in the digital content so that people who are unable to scroll down or navigate can easily locate the content they want to read. It also helps screen reading apps to move to content that is relevant to them. These are some of the main requirements and there are many more like this which need to be implemented as per Section 508.
There are many ways that this type of testing can be performed. It can be done within the company itself using many software products. These tools can check your webpages for any violation of section 508. But the main problem with these tools is that they are unable to check all of the accessibility problems and the reports generated are technical. Hence fixing those issues may become a problem. Instead of doing the testing yourself, hiring the services of Section 508 Compliance testing companies has many advantages:
They use a combination of automated testing tools and manual checks for web pages, applications, and documents. They have people with disabilities testing using assistive technologies for accessibility
After conducting tests on all the website functions, a detailed report is provided identifying all the issues
They also offer remediation solutions for the violations of the regulations.
Periodic monitoring is also done to check for any updates made to the WCAG 2.0 or section 508 laws.
It is best that every organization fulfils the section 508 requirements as it has many benefits. If your digital content is not complaint testing and remediation should be done. Taking the help of consultants like Arinos ensures that the digital content you have is fully complaint to section 508 and WCAG 2.0 standards.