Why should I care about 508 Compliance?
Why should you care? Retail giant, Target, was one of many businesses that have been faced with a lawsuit over website accessibility. In the case of Target, their class action suite resulted in a $6 Million dollar settlement.
Managing risk is important, but the bigger reason to care is, in today’s world of websites and technology, user experience is everything. In order to stay competitive and gain repeat customers or visitors, companies must provide the best experience possible. This also includes people with disabilities. From vision impairment to physical disability, it’s more important than ever to provide a consistent experience for all users.
What is 508 Compliance?
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act was created to set a minimum level of accessibility in electronics and technology. 508 compliance was taken a step further with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG documents explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities through images, text, sounds, and code.
Who needs to be compliant?
Are you at risk? If you are a company that has Government contracts etc. your site needs to be compliant. It’s pretty easy to start going down a rabbit hole when discussing this topic, so I’m going to share some of my high level experiences in helping our clients become 508 compliant.
How Do you make your site compliant?
For a new project, compliance should start in the estimating and planning phase of the project, with a decision on how compliant you want to be. It’s easier to address some of the compliance needs upfront, before the design and development occur. WCAG comes in three levels of compliance - A, AA, and AAA. Level A is the minimum, and Level AAA is the highest level of compliance. For our clients, we’ve recommended Level AA, as we don’t want to only meet the bare minimum, and it’s nearly impossible to accomplish AAA due to some types of content.
I’ll share with you some of the top and most common WCAG offenses we came across while helping our clients become compliant. These are things you want to think about before you start your project.
- Alt Text: keep in mind that visually impaired individuals will be using screen readers to visit your site. This means that all images and links need to have a description for the screen reader to announce.
- Color Contrast: be sure that the foreground and background colors are properly contrasted for color blind and visually impaired individuals. There’s lots of free great tools out there to help with this.
- Tabbing for Content: keeping screen readers in mind, you want your site visitor to be able to easily and logically navigate through your site content using the tab key.
- Voice Overs and Transcripts: try and use transcripts with videos for hearing impaired individuals, and voice overs to explain concept concepts that a screen reader might not do well reading.
What tools do you need to use?
Whether you’ve just built a new site, or if you have an existing site, there’s a lot of different tools to help your website become compliant. You can use one of the many free accessibility checkers out there, or, purchase a subscription to an accessibility software.
In regards to subscription services, we looked into Monsido, Siteimprove, and a few others. After comparing costs, features, and ease-of-use, we decided that Monsido was the best fit for us and our clients. This tool offers weekly scans, reports via email, and also offers QA and SEO opportunity findings in addition to accessibility. These tools will point out all the various offenses of 508 compliance for A, AA, and AAA standards, giving you the pinpoint location of what needs to be fixed, as well as a help center on how to fix the issues.
In addition to a scanning tool, you’ll also need the assistance of your web developers and designers to help address and correct the various offenses.
Hope that helped everyone!
We’ve been getting lots of questions and projects for this lately and since we’ve just recently completed a few we just thought we’d share to help everyone out. There is a lot of detail in these projects so get some professional help in getting this done. If you have any questions let us know, we’d be happy to help.