If you’ve been on the internet for even just a limited amount of time, you’ve most likely heard of being “ADA compliant” or “WCAG compliant.” But what about being Section 508 compliant? We know what you’re thinking; what is section 508 compliance? Maybe you think it applies to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), or that it’s related to WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), and you’d be right in both cases.
Section 508 & The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 508 is an amendment that was made to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in the late 1990s. The amendment requires federal agencies (and their business partners/affiliates) to ensure that their digital content (including web content) is accessible to disabled audiences. The important caveat that most people fail to realize, is that the content needs to be accessible to all disabled people (not just federal employees who happen to be disabled).
Section 508’s 2017 Update
Section 508 was most recently updated back in 2017. The updates mainly covered developments in technology, in order to ensure that disabled people wouldn’t be left behind due to regulatory errors. The goal of the 2017 update was to make accessibility a stronger focus of federal agencies (as well as their business partners). This means that if you conduct any type of business with a federal agency (as a contractor, subcontractor, etc.) then you need to be fully compliant with Section 508.
Who Does Section 508 Apply To?
Section 508 really only applies to federal agencies and organizations (as well as their business affiliates). So, if you conduct any sort of business with the federal government, you need to make sure that your ICT (information content technology – i.e. web content) is fully compliant with Section 508.
Individual business and private organizations (who don’t do business with the government) do not need to be fully compliant with section 508 (although it certainly wouldn’t hurt them to be compliant). Why limit your audience?
One of the most active internet audiences around the world are disabled people. Why limit your reach? Not including disabled people in your audience would be a major hindrance to the growth of your digital business/brand/website/etc.
How to Become Section 508 Compliant
Becoming complaint with Section 508 isn’t as simple as some may like to think. You can’t just press a few buttons and automatically make your digital content compliant with Section 508.
One of the very best ways of ensuring that your digital content (i.e. websites and mobile apps) are fully compliant with Section 508 is by actually hiring an outside firm that specializes in compliance. Although the cost may be a little more than you’d want to spend, the actual time that it will save your business is invaluable.
Compliance isn’t an easy field to navigate, which is why even large corporations usually contract this type of work out to specialized firms/companies. But, if you’re dead set on performing a compliance audit by yourself/using an inside team, read below for some tips on getting up to speed with Section 508 compliance.
- Note: Section 508 compliance auditing can be done manually, but it’s typically recommended to look into hiring a company that specializes in compliance audits.
Section 508 Compliance Testing Tips
There are essentially three different testing methods: manual, automatic, and “hybrid.” Automatic testing methods make use of applications and scripts to automatically scan (and test) content for compliance. Manual testing methods use highly specific, predefined testing systems to ensure proper compliance. Hybrid testing methods obviously make use of both automatic and manual testing styles. Which method you should use depends entirely on how much content you need to make compliant.
If you need to test a large amount of content (and most businesses and/or organizations do), your best bet would be to use a hybrid testing style. Use the following tips to ensure full accessibility:
- Have your developers code/develop with accessibility in mind from the very start.
- Manually test new content before publishing it.
- Make use of automatic testing tools to routinely audit new/old content.
- Make an audit schedule with predetermined test dates (and make sure that all relevant departments are included in the test phases).
If you want to learn more about Section 508 testing methods, you can go directly to the main Section 508 website, which is an excellent resource on everything involving compliance.