Enacted in 1998, Section 508, was an amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It requires federal government websites and all information technology to be safe and accessible for people with different kinds of disabilities, such as:
- Visual (blindness, low vision, lack of color perception)
- Auditory (hard of hearing, deafness)
- Motor (limited strength, reach or manipulation, tremor, lack of sensation)
- Speech disabilities
- Language, Learning or Cognitive impairments (reading disabilities, thinking, remembering, sequencing disabilities)
- Or individuals with a combination of any of these disabling conditions (deaf-blindness)
The main requirement to meet this law is to develop a website that people with disabilities can use by adding assistive technologies such as screen readers that interpret everything shown on screen.
According to a CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) press release in 2018, one out of four US adults has some form of disability.
What these numbers mean for your business is that there’s quite a large group of people that you don’t want to leave out when considering your website’s design.
This article will help you understand why you need to follow the 508 Compliance, how it could affect your business, and how to efficiently meet the requirements by utilizing an internet marketing agency’s services.
Do I Have To Comply?
Federal government websites and other technology are required by law to comply with section 508. This also applies to anyone working with the federal government, such as contractors or any legal organization that operates under the federal government’s permission.
Though private entities are not required to meet the 508 compliance, you should follow the guidelines unless you want to risk losing site visitors. They will opt to visit a competitor’s website where they can access the information with ease because the company cares about their accessibility. Ultimately, this means lower page views as well as limited website interactions.
Moreover, excluding a particular group from availing a product or service is grounds for a lawsuit like the one filed against reebok back in 2015 when its website failed to meet web page accessibility standards. Even smaller companies are equally at risk for litigation. This applies most especially to those who belong to a hospitality or public services industry like hotels, resorts, public transportation, casinos, and the like.
In the end, when designing or developing a website, whether you work for the federal government or you belong to the private sector or non-profit, you need to follow 508 compliance and accessibility practices for all types of users, especially if it’s for your 2021 customer retention strategy.
Section 508 Key Requirements
There are 16 standards that websites need to meet to be compliant, as mentioned in the Section 508 government website. Here are the core components of the compliance guidelines:
Users with motor disabilities need to be able to navigate a website using a keyboard instead of a mouse. Their inability to use a mouse makes them rely heavily on keyboard-only visual indicators on the site, such as buttons, links, and input boxes.
These items on the screen must be able to be controlled with a tab, arrow, or other keys, instead of mouse clicks. Following these recommendations allows users to complete or submit forms.
Screen Reader Capability
All items must be designed and built to be accessed via screen readers for visually impaired users under this requirement. This also includes the use of alt tagging or alt text to describe images, buttons, or videos. Screen readers are one of the assistive technologies that convert digital text into synthesized speech. The transcripts of these texts must effectively describe actions.
Aside from the visually impaired, those with cognitive or learning disabilities will also be able to use screen readers to read aloud the text on webpages.
Having been used for TV and film for years now, this assistive technology supports people with auditory impairments by enabling them to “read” the audio or video content. This is done by providing a transcript of the spoken words in a video or audio file.
Other Usability Guidelines
In general, there should be enough guideposts so any user with impairment can easily navigate the site. The required actions should also be easy to understand, like having clear instructions for an alternative file upload using a keyboard instead of drag and drop using a mouse.
How To Know If My Site Is 508 Compliant
In most cases, becoming 508 compliant isn’t exactly a straightforward task. Unless you have experienced it yourself, it’s difficult to fully understand how difficult it is to navigate a website if you have a disability. To help you check if your site is 508 compliant, you can find a list of tools and testing methods at the Section508 government website.
Sometimes checking for compliance can be an overwhelming task in itself. Hiring a digital marketing agency can cut through all the struggles in ensuring your website is 508 compliant. Experts in internet marketing services understand what to look for when creating or updating a website following the 508 compliance. A good internet marketing agency also has the technical skills to structure or restructure a website for compliance. They will check every page according to the 508 requirements such as HTML tags, image or video alt text, closed captioning, skip navigation, and the like.
Instead of learning all of this stuff and implementing the compliance yourself, you can leave it to the specialists in digital marketing services to identify the issues that could affect your website’s accessibility. They can then make the necessary structural changes to ensure that your content and your website itself are 508 compliant.
Designing, building, and maintaining a 508 compliant and fully accessible website is a great practice to have in place regardless of whether or not your organization is legally required to implement the requirements of section 508.
As mentioned earlier, many Americans live with disabilities. The ultimate goal of Section 508 is to help this particular group of audience to access your website for information or to avail themselves to your products or services.
Following the Section 508 guidelines increases access and eases use for all types of users, whatever impairment they’re suffering from. Not catering to all kinds of web users can be very problematic to an organization. Specialists in internet marketing services know this very well. That’s why working with a digital marketing agency helps you make sure that your website and all of your content succeed with this vital group of audience.
Want to make sure that your organization is socially responsible and inclusive of all types of users? Contact us today to speak with a digital marketing services expert at 321-341-9090 or email us at [email protected].