What is 508 compliance for websites?
508 compliance for websites generally refers to website accessibility for users with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public services to provide websites with fair access for people with differences in hearing, vision, and mobility. All federal agencies and organizations doing business with federal agencies (or receiving federal funding) are required to comply with accessibility standards by January 2018. However, the legislation will have lasting effects across all industries..
Unless a website has been designed for 508 compliance, users with adaptive reading devices (readers) and other modified interfaces will have a difficult time finding what they need. Most websites are designed for fully-sighted and hearing users. Many of the features that designers take for granted when building a website can limit or prevent access for users with disabilities.
Lawsuits on behalf of users with disabilities are on the rise and being brought against private companies that don’t comply. Even smaller businesses with 508 non-compliant websites are at risk for litigation, especially in the financial, hospitality and public services sectors.
How do I make my website ADA compliant?
An ADA-compliant website needs to have important components such as, easier navigation, making text content readable, and sufficiently contrasting colors in graphics. The website and content must also be scalable and robust enough to work with current and future assistive technologies.
Examples of common website elements that need to be accessible include:
- Keyboard: All content functions should be operable through a keyboard interface, such as using unmodified arrow or tab keys. The user should be able to find all menus and links simply by using the keyboard.
- Images: Graphics all need to include alt text, a hidden code embedded to make it possible for assistive technologies to access information that explains the content of the image.
- Videos: Text transcripts or captions of videos should be made available.
- Colors: The colors of all elements on the site should be strongly contrasting so that information is easy to read. Additionally, any information in color (e.g. graphs, buttons) should be labeled in such a way that users can understand the color information without color.
- Form Labels: All forms with editable fields should be clearly labeled outside of the field itself. For example, a search bar should have a “Search” label before the the field itself instead of inside the field box or after.
- Stylesheets: Website stylesheets are used to control a site’s layout and presentation and should be specially coded to ensure the site’s presentation is optimally retained. Stylesheets should also use relative rather than absolute units.
Schuler Design & Development has experience making websites ADA compliant. We have worked with banks and other financial firms to ensure they aren’t subject to lawsuits and future fines from the government. If you would like to learn more feel free to contact us at 904.494.8777.
Is my website compliant right now?
WCAG 2.0 has a list of tools that you can use to check if your website meets accessibility guidelines. But, of course, online tools are no substitute for a human expert.