508 Compliance Testing: Building Bridges To Digital Inclusion
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Section 508 compliance testing is the process of locating and removing any obstacles in an information and communication technology (ICT) product or service utilized by staff members or customers of an organization or business.
So what is Section 508, and what does Section 508 testing actually entail? Section 508 is part of the 1998 amendment to the United States Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that requires all federal electronic content to be accessible. Under Section 508, all federal agencies are mandated to provide people with disabilities access to information comparable to that available to people without disabilities.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standard and Section 508 accessibility requirements are both evaluated during Section 508 compliance testing of ICT products and services procurable by U.S. federal agencies and federally funded organizations.
An expert Section 508 compliance tester can help an organization or business through a comprehensive approach to Section 508 compliance testing, remove accessibility barriers, and prevent future accessibility problems by using the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT).
The VPAT is a web-based standard form that vendors of ICT products and services can use to document how their products and services comply with Section 508 accessibility requirements.
Without VPAT security, which is the confirmation that an ICT product or service has been subjected to Section 508 compliance testing, federal agencies or federally funded organizations will not consider any ICT product or service for procurement, even if it has superior accessibility features compared to those whose vendors have filled out the appropriate VPAT testing tool.
Some of the digital experiences that require accessibility scrutiny by an experienced Section 508 compliance tester include websites (intranet and internet), mobile applications, program application platforms, software and operating systems, PDF documents, e-learning courses, and support documentation such as user guides for software and tools.
Section 508 compliance testing should ensure that ICT is accessible from the point of view of a user with any number of disabilities that affect how they interact with it.
The 508 compliance tester, for instance, should establish and take action to guarantee that the ICT under assessment is capable of correctly interacting with the various assistive technologies, such as screen readers and speech recognition software, used by individuals with various sorts of disabilities. They should also make sure that the ICT is able to accommodate people who are only able to use a keyboard as the data input device.
Websites should undergo Section 508 compliance testing to ensure that the color contrast is sufficient for users with low contrast sensitivity to easily navigate the site. The WCAG standard should be followed, including with regard to all formats, file types, training materials, and job ads, among others. Any online forms offered on such websites should have correct labeling.
Section 508 specifically requires all federal agencies to ensure that the ICT they develop, procure, maintain, or use allows their employees with disabilities and people with disabilities who are members of the public to have access to and use of information and data.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was passed and had a significant impact on the lives of millions of Americans, ensured that people with disabilities could no longer be denied access to jobs, schools, transportation, and places of public accommodation. However, it did not require federal agencies to comply.
The Rehabilitation Act’s Section 508 modification created the magic link that connected federal agencies and extended the ADA’s benefits for digital inclusion by focusing on their purchasing authority.
ADA Section 508 compliance, which was occasioned by the bridging of the digital inclusion gap between accessibility in private and public spaces, has broadened the scope of Section 508 compliance testing and ensured greater realization of digital inclusion.
ADA Section 508 compliance testing is not just about ADA Section 508 compliance for organizations and businesses. There are more benefits that digital inclusion has created for businesses and organizations. For years before Section 508 was enacted, people with disabilities were largely forgotten. Access to information was a nightmare for a large number of people in this category. Websites were never designed to meet their special needs.
Can you imagine how our friends and relatives who have a variety of disabilities were still unable to fully enjoy the benefits of the Internet in an era where equality was stressed? The visually challenged and those with hearing-related conditions were the most severely affected.
As more and more businesses and organizations began to digitalize practically every part of their operations, it became clear that steps needed to be taken to ensure that websites were accessible to all. Accessing even basic services from government agencies has become more challenging for people with disabilities as a result of digitization.
By eradicating these pre-existing forms of discrimination, which were a significant barrier to their access to information, Section 508 effectively constructed bridges toward the digital inclusion of formerly disadvantaged people with disabilities. Over the years, this piece of legislation has been amended, with the 1998 amendment making it a requirement that all federal agencies have websites that are accessible for people with disabilities.
Even though Section 508 compliance is mandatory only for federal organizations, businesses that associate with or receive funds from such organizations have to meet 508 accessibility standards to avoid discrepancies. When purchase options are narrowed down, federal agencies are legally required to select the ICT products or services with the most accessible features.
Thus, Section 508 compliance testing expands the market for ICT products and services and lowers businesses’ litigation costs. Furthermore, offering a flawless digital experience to everyone equally is a good thing for any organization or corporation.
ADACP has experienced VPAT security experts that can assure the compliance of your ICT products and services with ADA Section 508 and WCAG. Call (626) 486-2201 today to discuss with us your Section 508 accessibility needs, and we will help you be a step ahead of your competition in digital inclusivity.