Section 508 Compliance: Tips For Creating Accessible Digital Properties

  • 2.06.2023

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    What are digital properties?

    Digital properties are electronic representations of any information or data that is saved on the Internet, a computer, or any other electronic device, including text, photographs, multimedia material, and personal property. Social media platforms and websites are two examples of digital properties.

    The increasing use of websites, social media platforms, and other mobile applications (apps) has heightened the need to create, purchase, store, and use digital properties, including personal or financial information, email communications, photographs, or videos, to make them accessible to all users.

    Making your digital properties accessible is of utmost importance because it enables them to be accessible to everyone, no matter their ability. When you make your digital property accessible, you ensure that all users of the property, including those with disabilities, can easily use it and understand the information provided.

    Ensuring the accessibility of digital properties is a way to promote inclusion and diversity, as well as ensure that no one is excluded from accessing the important information and services offered through the properties.

    What is 508 compliance for digital properties?

    For digital properties, 508 compliance refers to ensuring that users with disabilities can access the digital properties directly or with the assistance of the assistive technology they use.

    Section 508 compliance is about creating digital properties that can be used by everyone, regardless of their ability. It is about allowing everyone, including people with disabilities, to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the digital property and the content provided therein.

    Although Section 508 compliance focuses, in the first stage, on users with disabilities, it can actually improve the experience of using digital properties for everyone. Imagine being in a loud environment and being unable to hear audio.

    For example, if the digital property you are using gives you the option to turn on subtitles on the video you are watching, you will be able to understand what is being said even if you are not hearing it due to the loud environment. Maybe you are in bright sunlight and cannot see a screen. If a digital property has sufficient contrast, you will have higher chances of seeing the information displayed, regardless of the bright sunlight.

    Based on the aforementioned factors, Section 508 specifically demands that owners of digital properties plan ahead for how users with disabilities will use the properties’ features and how the properties will be created, installed, configured, and maintained to support those users. Digital property owners can verify that their assets are accessible to people with disabilities by using the Section 508 compliance checklist.

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      How to create accessible digital properties

      With the massive growth in the digital creator economy, many people are creating or purchasing digital properties. The creator economy is made up of individuals who use digital platforms to build an audience and make money. They include content creators, curators, social media influencers, bloggers, and videographers.

      According to a Forbes report in 2022, there were about 50 million content creators across multiple digital platforms, including YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitch.

      In order to ensure that their digital properties are Section 508 compliant and that their content is accessible to all users, people in the creator economy have a responsibility, much like owners of other information and communication technology (ICT) products and services, to acquaint themselves with the 508 compliance requirements and ensure compliance with them. This is because of Section 508’s requirement that all externally visible public content and internally visible official communications from federal agencies be accessible.

      The creator economy has made Section 508 compliance a part of everyone’s role. That is why every content creator and other ICT product and service provider needs to be conversant with the Section 508 compliance checklist to provide them with the criteria that must be met to ensure their content and digital properties are accessible to all users.

      You don’t need the active help of users with the five types of disabilities—vision, auditory, cognitive, learning, and neurological; physical; and speech—that frequently affect how people use digital properties in order to create digital properties or content that is accessible.

      All you need to adhere to are the wonder tips for creating accessible digital properties, as follows:

      1. Use of clear headings

      Using clear headings instead of large or bold text to break content into navigable sections. Headings also help give your content structure that makes it easy to read. This is especially important for screen reader users, who may navigate through your digital property or content based on the provided headings.

      1. Sticking to a consistent layout

      Ensuring your digital property or the content you disseminate has a consistent layout helps keep viewers oriented from page to page, which sets their expectations regarding interactive elements such as navigation tools.

      1. Keeping it text where necessary

      If it is possible, try to avoid images of text and instead use the actual text. That is because images of text often become pixilated or blurry when zoomed in. If you are using an image, ensure that the alternative text provides the exact text found in the image.

      1. Sizing and spacing of text

      If you make your text too small or squish the lines together with poor spacing, it makes your digital property hard to read and navigate through. For the best accessibility, ensure that you keep the size and spacing of your text at the default for whichever digital property you are using.

      1. Use plain language

      When you use plain language in creating your digital property, you make the users of the property quickly understand and act on your content.

      1. Use of descriptive text

      Just as is the case with headings, ensure you distinguish links from other text on the pages of your digital property. This makes the content easier to skim through.

      1. Color contrast

      Ensure that your text and background colors have a high enough contrast. This helps improve the readability of your digital property for all users.

      1. Alternative text

      Ensure you use alternative text, which is the equivalent of an image in context. This ensures that if the image is not available, web browsers will display the text for users or screen readers to read.

      1. Use of captions and transcripts

      Akin to the alternative text on images, captions provide a text alternative for video content. On the other hand, transcripts provide text alternatives for audio-only content, as in the case of podcasts.

      Ask ADACP for help with digital property accessibility

      The above tips for creating accessible digital properties are just a starting point. ADACP approaches accessibility as a process, not a one-time event or project. We are here to help you make all your digital properties accessible. Just schedule a consultation with us by calling (626) 486-2201 today, and we will be happy to discuss your accessibility needs.