508 Compliance Checklists

  • 24.05.2021

Checklists are beneficial when we have specific objectives we want to meet. To reach certain goals or accomplish new tasks, checklists provide sound guidance and are always helpful.

If you are a business owner with an online website, you’ll be happy to know that website accessibility checklists are available. You probably fall under the standards of ADA, W3C, and Section 508 compliance, so keep reading to determine the minimum compliance standards you must meet.

What are these compliance standards?

#1. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law last 1990 and was amended in 2010. ADA is a fundamental civil rights law. It prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, even public and private places that are open to the general public. Given how society has progressed in recent years, websites on the internet are now included and covered by the ADA.

This means that all sorts of websites that are open to the general public should be accessible to people with all kinds of disabilities. However, the ADA does not outline specific compliance standards for web accessibility.

Generally, business owners ensure their website can cater to at least the following:

  • assistive technology, such as screen readers
  • alt (short for “alternative”) text to describe multimedia content like any image or video
  • high contrast between the background color and the rest of the website

These are just some of the compliance standards for an essential website. Otherwise, users with disabilities will be unable to access their products and services online, which counts as noncompliance with the ADA and loss for the business.

Besides the Americans with Disabilities Act, W3C standards can also be used as a checklist to standardize web technology.

#2. W3C

Meanwhile, W3C standards define an open web platform for application development to enable developers to build rich interactive experiences on any device.

W3C involves more technical specifications for web design and application standards. These include HTML, CSS, SVG, Ajax, WCAG, etc. They are also helping build a technology stack to support databases to develop systems that can create data stores on the web, build vocabularies, and even write rules for handling data.

While it sounds very technical, there is great value in using the W3C standards to reference your website. Their clear guidelines will allow your web developers to create an impressive and seamless webpage – merging functionality and aesthetic – that is accessible for all.

Lastly, let’s look into the Section 508 compliance standards.

#3. Section 508

In 1973, The Rehabilitation Act was passed to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in the federal sector. Later on, Section 508 was added into the law, specifying that information and communication technology (ICT) must be accessible to people with disabilities.

This means that websites, mobile apps, and all forms of ICT, such as info kiosks and telecommunications equipment, must be accessible enough for people with disabilities. There should not be any technical barriers that make it difficult or even impossible for people with disabilities to use or access these forms of ICT.

What makes Section 508 and The Rehabilitation Act different from ADA is that the former applies to all federal agencies and even organizations that receive federal funding. Besides Section 508, however, states and local governments have their legislation requiring certain groups within that state to comply with Section 508.

What is included in the Section 508 Standards?

Their standards refer to particular accessibility criteria that websites and other ICT must adhere to. It provides a checklist of specific requirements that must be followed – unlike the ADA, which does not outline specific accessibility standards.

Over the years, as technology evolves, so does our knowledge about accessibility barriers and what technical attributes make it easier – or harder – for people with disabilities to use online technology. So Section 508 has been changed since it was first introduced to accommodate technological improvements for people with disabilities.

It was in 1998 when enforceable web accessibility standards were included in Section 508. Different types of ICT were grouped into categories, and technical requirements were provided for each category.

What were the requirements in these new criteria of Section 508?

There are many requirements added to Section 508 through the years, such as –

  • Alt-text: providing a text equivalent for every element, such as an image, in a non-text format. This is especially helpful for people who can’t see pictures or other forms of media and rely on screen-reading software and other assistive technologies to read out the text on their screen.
  • Alternate formats of multimedia: adding text captions to audio information or descriptive audio to visual communication. This is geared for people who cannot hear the audio or see the visual information and other graphics on the web pages.
  • Present information independent of colors: ensuring that all information can be conveyed without using color. Otherwise, people who couldn’t see their screen or distinguish between colors can’t understand the presented information or media.

But these are mere criteria – what about the compliance checklist itself?

Of course, checklists go on and on with many technical terms for web accessibility. They must cover the entire range of disabilities that their users may have.

Below are five simple aspects of a Section 508 compliance testing checklist, along with a short explanation about why these attributes matter for web accessibility.

Brief Section 508 compliance checklist:

  1. There are text equivalents for every essential photo, image, logo, or other non-text elements. (This means, for example, that there is text to describe the company CEO’s profile picture, but not to tell a decorative row of meaningless symbols across the top of the web page.) Text alternatives are essential because people who have vision disabilities and can’t see the images correctly will know what’s in them. They may, for example, be using a screen-reader like JAWS to read all the text on the page.
  2. The web pages do not flicker at a frequency greater than three times per second. This reduces the risk that they will trigger a seizure in people with seizure disorders or cause confusion for those with vision problems.
  3. Web developers must make it possible to fill out online forms using assistive technology or using just the keyboard. If a document can only be filled out using a mouse to click from field to field, web users who do not have the hand dexterity to operate a mouse will not complete the form.
  4. There must be enough color contrast between the information on the web page and the background color. That way, the data is more readable by people with limited vision or colorblindness.
  5. There must be a function for people to skip over long lists of navigation links or multiple logos to get to the main content. This means someone with a physical disability who cannot scroll down quickly and efficiently will still navigate straight to the central part of the web page. Similarly, it makes it easier for someone using screen-reading software to skip to the content they want to read (or hear).

Keep in mind that Section 508 and the ADA cover different entities. While the compliance standards are different, the main objective is the same, which is to make the internet entirely accessible for people with disabilities.