Section 508

What it is and how to achieve compliance

The Rehabilitation Act was first introduced in 1973. Section 508 was added in a modification to the original version in 1986.

Introduction

Section 508 was believed to be necessary due to the rapid growth and advancement of information and electronic technologies; however, the initial changes were largely ineffective since there were no effective enforcement mechanisms to enforce conformity with the Act.

The year 1998 was the first time that US Congress introduced the brand-new Section 508 in the Rehabilitation Act so that it dealt with compliance issues by utilizing the process of market research and government procurement. The Act also established standards for technical compliance to be evaluated to determine and verify that they comply with technical standards for compliance.

The confusion and difficulty that many web design agencies are faced with Section 508 seem to stem from the need to achieve a balance.

It is a matter of being in compliance with the lawful provisions of the Act and meeting the Access Board of America’s technical accessibility standards.

Section 508 stipulates that every Federal information that is available electronically must be accessible to people who are disabled. The Act stipulates that the information should be made accessible in various ways specific to the specific handicap.

Numerous technical standards have to be met to be in Section 508 health compliance. This guide will cover the diverse aspects more in-depth and provide you with an efficient checklist. Here is a list of some of the standards which need to be considered:

  • Desktop and Portable Computers –The Act offers guidelines on accessibility for standard ports and mechanically operated controls such as touchscreens and keyboards.
  • Self-Contained and closed products –This is a term used to describe products where the user cannot connect or add their assistive technology. Standard technology products like kiosks, copiers, or fax devices are classified as closed or self-contained products. The standards mentioned in Section 508 are a requirement for accessibility features to be integrated into these systems when needed.
  • Software Applications and Operating Systems –The technical standards needed to be met to issues like accessibility of software using suitable keyboard navigation and web browser features.
  • Telecommunications Products Section 508 seeks to solve accessibility issues for the wide variety of Telecommunications products, including mobile phones and voicemail systems. To be compliant, it is necessary to make sure that the technology you are using works with your hearing aids and assistive hearing devices.
  • Videos and Multimedia Multimedia and Videos Technical standards required in Section 508 contain the requirements in the area of captioning and audio descriptions of multimedia content, like training or informational productions.
  • Web-based Intranets and Internet Applications –Technical standards that are needed include the requirement for disabled users to access assistive technology like screen readers and Braille displays that can be refreshed to enable them to use the internet content.

Chapter 1: Cutting through the jargon

Section 508 is a federally mandated obligation so that you will discover a wealth of official guidance via numerous US government websites and resources. However, getting through the maze of jargon and finding the most pertinent information can be difficult and daunting.

We have put together an inventory of the most effective practices you should follow if you wish to meet accessibility standards that are required with minimal hassle.

The United States Access Board has issued a detailed guideline to assist you in providing all-inclusive access and inclusion to everyone, and you might be able to refer to it at some moment. These are the best guidelines to be focusing on when attempting Section 508 conformity.

 

  • Always use clear visuals –You must operate with the assumption that all images on your site need to have alt text included in your code or descriptive captions. Avoid using colors for navigational purposes because colorblind and screen readers cannot distinguish the images if they are presented in only color.
  • Supplement your audio and video –All multimedia sources require further enhancements and treatment to ensure accessibility. For instance, If your website has videos, they should be captioned in synchronization, and audio podcasts should provide transcripts for people with hearing impairment.
  • Try to be keyboard-friendly –You should keep in mind that not all users can use the mouse. That means you must facilitate navigation using a keyboard, adding lists, headings, and other structural elements.
  • Provide accessible forms and files –Another aspect of conformity is the necessity to ensure that people using screen readers or any other assistive technology can complete and submit any form available on the site. The same principle should be applied to PDFs and documents and any other form or format that should be readily accessible to everyone.
  • “Skip Navigation” options –Most websites have several repeated elements. Adding “Skip navigation” options allows users to move over the items and go back to the central part of the page.

Chapter 2: Testing and Preparing Documents

We will give some advice on how to design and organize files and documents to make them accessible at the beginning, and you must ensure that you test each file for Section 508 conformity as it is made and before it is loaded to avoid time and effort fixing any mistakes later.

Make sure that every electronic document received is available. Correct use of Acquisition language should ensure at least one version complies.

The US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) offers an online tutorial that gives detailed instructions on writing and formatting documents. It is recommended to include specific points and considerations when working toward achieving Section 508 conformity. The following points are primarily related to compliance with PDF document conversion:

Creating Tables – When using tables in your web pages, ensure that you make them correctly from the beginning. There are specific methods to construct them. If they are not constructed correctly initially and are not correctly constructed, it could be laborious to correct after they have been converted to PDF format.

Lists – The same comments apply to lists, and if you always use

Paragraph Group List formats when creating bulleted or numerical lists, you should hopefully avoid trying to fix an error at a later date.

Fillable Forms –There is only one method to create fillable PDF forms that are compliant, and that is by creating fillable areas within The Adobe Acrobat PDF. You will notice that fillable areas made using other software cannot transfer appropriately when converted into PDF.

Take care with Backgrounds, Borders, and Text Boxes – It is essential to combine your creativity and the functionality of your document if you are capable of creating a PDF that is 508 compliant with minimal effort.

Utilizing stunning backgrounds, beautiful borders, and text boxes is acceptable from a visual perspective standpoint, but should you make the process too complex, you are likely to be unable to produce an acceptable PDF compliant with the standards needed for compliance.

The issue is that when you transform your document into PDF, any backgrounds or fancy borders will appear as pictures, while textboxes will not be read. This means that everything that is considered an image may require additional text in the PDF to correct it or be converted to backgrounds, so you should be careful to stay clear of text boxes entirely.

Avoid encoding errors –If you select to use fonts that are not considered to be a standard selection, you will often discover that certain special characters in those fonts (wingdings is an excellent illustration) are not compatible with the conversion process and could result in errors with encoding Keep the process simple.

Special Effects – Maintaining the idea of keeping it simple, you could apply numerous special effects to your text. This is likely to mean that you will not meet 508 compliance because of these effects.

Drop shadows, bevels, glows, and other similar effects could make your text appear attractive however you must eliminate them from all text that is not within a shape before converting it to PDF.

Text in Shapes – If you are looking for some creativity to make your website appear more appealing, but remain to comply with 508, think about putting the text into forms.

A shape does not use formatting for paragraph text and is not tied to an established style. This means you can play around with your text effects if the text is inside shapes. Be sure to change the Wrap to include Alt Text and fix the reading order after you save the PDF similarly, as you would with images.

Document Properties – Document properties are often called metadata, and they contain the information of a file that allows to identify or describe it.

Properties are crucial when a document is being published on a website because search engines use this information to find documents that people might be interested in looking at.

Inserting Images and Graphics –Always verify the order in which you read graphics and images after saving them in PDF. However, if you opt to wrap to align text by pressing the right button on the image, you are more likely to keep the format intact after converting it to PDF.

Using Alt Text – All diagrams, images, photographs, diagrams, or other graphic images must be embedded with an alternate text label.

The reason is that those who cannot see the image are in a position to comprehend the content of the document. It is also essential to ensure that each image has been given a unique description to prevent any conflicts.

Utilize online tutorials, such as the ones available on the Microsoft Office site or something similar to help learn how to add Alt Text in your applications.

Poor Color Combinations – Consider that those who suffer from low-vision or color blindness may find it difficult to read documents if the color of the text is not strong enough to contrast to the background colors.

About 5% of us have partial color blindness. If you select an inappropriate color scheme, you will make the task of discerning between different colors difficult. To ensure compliance with 508, use text and page backgrounds that have an impressive level of contrast and brightness.

Avoid all colored text for those who suffer from color blindness that is red and green such as simply not being able to differentiate from the other.

Provide Unique Hyperlink Labels – Screen readers have a unique feature: they offer the user to listen to just hyperlinks on the web page, which is extremely useful for navigation.

Consider the various options to display URLs, and avoid using common click here hyperlinks since assistive technology may not recognize the actual website address. Therefore, you may want to enter the complete address if it seems too lengthy or looks correct. Enter the URL of the page you want to visit within the hyperlink context, including the full address.

If the entire address shows on Alt Text, it will ensure that your document appears more professional and allows you to comply with 508 requirements.

Creating Forms – Section 508 The guidelines state that for electronic forms designed for online submission, those using assistive technology should be able to gain access to the information.

Design the layouts of the forms in Word before starting and incorporate tooltips into a field to help with compliance. However, you should be conscious that MS Word document form fields do not convert to PDF, so they need to be created within Adobe Acrobat for fillable PDF forms.

The following checklist is a Word Document 508 Checklist produced by HHS and is available for download in PDF format or different formats if further reference is required.

Word Document 508 Checklist

Positive Attributes

Obtained 508 compliance is not only a legal requirement but is also an opportunity to draw an even wider audience.

About 20 percent of Americans are affected by a disability, and more than half of those who have an impairment, access websites regularly. A significant portion of them also claims that they are likely to work with businesses that support equal treatment and diversity for employees.

Section 508 compliance may also aid your marketing and SEO efforts since a website that is accessible has greater exposure to Google. This improves your rankings and enables web crawlers who browse a site and evaluate the information more quickly than a website that is not in compliance.

Think about the advantages that come with Section 508 compliance. Everyone will benefit from a website that can provide accessibility and usability regardless of handicap.


Useful Websites:
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_508_Amendment_to_the_Rehabilitation_Act_of_1973
https://www.section508.gov/
https://ictbaseline.access-board.gov/
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