Section 508 Compliance and Accessible Content Management for Your e-Commerce Website
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Although Section 508 compliance for content management systems may appear difficult and puzzling, it is essential for any business that offers its products and services through electronic platforms like websites and mobile applications. It is founded on a valid foundation: according to the US Census Bureau, approximately one in five Americans suffers from some sort of disability. That is a large number of people that you do not want to ignore or exclude from your business.
All federal and state governments in the United States must adhere to Section 508 accessibility requirements. In accordance with this regulation, which was adopted in 1998, any technology utilized by the federal government must be usable by people who have physical, mental, visual, or hearing impairments. Working with website developers who recognize that people with disabilities frequently utilize assistive technology to access material on e-commerce digital platforms is helpful if you want to ensure that your e-commerce website complies with Section 508.
To make information and technology usable by people with disabilities, 16 Section 508 accessibility requirements or standards have been created. These requirements are essential to ensuring that the material on your website complies with Section 508.
The current Section 508 compliance checklist is something that many e-commerce business owners strive to ensure their digital platforms meet. According to various analytics, automated 508 compliance checkers are frequently used to verify websites for 508-accessibility. Unfortunately, no single automated system exists that can instantly render an e-commerce website compliant.
It is important to keep in mind that, currently, a 508-compliant website is effectively delivered using a combination of manual and automated methods. Here are the 16 requirements for your e-commerce website’s Section 508 compliance and accessible content management: At a quick glance, your websites must be accessible by keyboard only (without a mouse); all screens should be readable by screen readers that can also display alternative (alt) tags and descriptions of images; closed captioning should be available (or transcripts of audio or video should be provided); and online forms should be able to be completed using assistive technology (or only the keyboard).
Good e-commerce website development should prioritize delivering a great user experience, user interaction, and applicable design principles. This is often referred to as UX/UI in the creative and IT sectors. This evolved from guidance drawn from usability principles, a field of knowledge that has expanded over many years.
Good Section 508 accessibility for an e-commerce website means that the user of the website is able to quickly perform a task with little to no difficulty. This frequently entails using clear and logical navigation, definable words, intelligible action items, a logically flowing design, and efficient processes. The aforementioned are the most fundamental considerations to keep in mind when dealing with accessibility as it relates to Section 508 compliance, while there are more alternatives to take into account that differ from website to website.
To have an e-commerce website that is Section 508 compliant, you must be aware of the requisite software and technology fundamentals. Adhering to acceptable software and technology fundamentals helps to make computing life a bit easier for people with disabilities.
In addition to following the foundations of 508 accessibility-enabling software and technology, you need to make sure that your content management system (CMS) adheres to best practice recommendations and rules. Make sure everything can be done from a computer keyboard without the need for a mouse, as some people are unable to use a mouse. This should be taken into account while creating computer keyboard shortcuts, object and picture manipulations, and dropdown list actions, to name a few. A few helpful features for Section 508 compliance and accessible content management for e-commerce websites include sticky keys, filter keys, mouse keys, and High Contrast.
Additionally, your website needs to retain a clear on-screen concentration solution. Your CMS should have an indicator that moves along with the other interface elements. Assistive technology should help with focus control.
It is important to highlight that although most of us who have access to all five senses find navigating the Internet easy, people with disabilities may find it challenging. Because of this, it’s critical to have enough knowledge about the user interface you employ for your e-commerce website, including the elements’ names, functions, and states as they relate to various assistive technologies. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that any icon that symbolizes a program element also shows text that describes the process it represents. The icons or bitmap pictures that are used to define aspects of any application on the website should, therefore, also be consistent.
It is also crucial to ensure that all textual content is provided through the operating system’s (OS) functionality for text display in order for your website to be Section 508-compliant. The only textual information that has to be presented in your CMS at a minimum is text content, text input caret location, and text attributes. Also, make sure that the website’s display settings have all been adjusted to accommodate users with visual disabilities. For instance, be sure that no application on your website ever overrides the contrast or color settings that a user has chosen for the screen.
Verify the website to make sure people with various disabilities can use all the provided display features. Additionally, if there is animation, make sure users can access it as non-animated information or content. Also ensure that before viewing or consuming the content, the user has the option to select the presentation mode.
Your website’s content should be properly arranged as well. Leading experts in Section 508 compliance recommend that objects on the website be clearly labeled to help offer Section 508-accessible material that makes the site simple to use.
It’s also crucial not to forget that there should be more than one way to transmit information, indicate an action, elicit a response, or identify a visual element. This is especially true when using color coding or highlighting. Despite the fact that a wide variety of color and contrast elements aid in keeping users organized when dealing with vast amounts of information that may need to be classified and arranged in a specific way within files, directories, etc. A professional 508-accessibility practitioner can assist in finding the ideal balance.
There are certain elements to stay away from while you spruce up your e-commerce website to achieve the Section 508 compliance certification you desire. One example is blinking or flashing elements. That’s because they can be annoying for end users who have disabilities in addition to being obtrusive and distracting. Make sure that the website’s blinking or flashing elements stay within the range of 2 Hz and 55 Hz.
Make sure that people who want to fill out the digital forms you offer on your website can use assistive technologies as well. To make sure that they can help users with varied disabilities access information on your website, edit information as expected, and submit information, test a variety of assistive technologies.
The context of the material is crucial for your e-commerce website. Remember that while users of all five senses may consider certain components to be standard, these aspects should also be usable by those with disabilities. Because of this, you need a skilled Section 508 compliance auditor who is familiar with the importance of making every aspect of your website accessible to users with various disabilities.
It is also important to make sure that everything on your website that is in color, such as markup or user-context clues, is equally available without the color. There should be redundant text links for each active region of a server-side image map (replacing image components with text elements), and all pages on the website should be legible without a style sheet. Row and column headers for any tables offered on the website should be explicitly defined, and any even frames should be clearly declared as an element.
There are numerous other standards and 508 compliance best practices you must adhere to in addition to the aforementioned considerations to help deliver Section 508 compliance and accessible content management for e-commerce websites. Therefore, it is advisable to speak with a Section 508 compliance specialist to figure out how to keep your online store 508 compliant.
If you need any help with 508 compliance and accessible content management for your e-commerce website, shoot us a convenient time at (626) 486-2201 or schedule a consult, and we’ll be glad to assist you. Our consultations are always free!