All electronic and informational technology developed or maintained by the federal government must be 508 compliant. This amendment is a federal law derived from the United states Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, but what does that mean for your business? Let us explain what 508 compliance is, how it can be implemented, and how it can benefit your business.
What is 508 Compliance?
At a basic level, 508 compliance is an amendment that makes sure that technology and websites are user friendly for everyone. If you are a business that uses a website to market your services, drive quality leads, or simply educate the community, it makes sense that you want as much traffic as possible to get to your site. Better yet, you want this traffic to successfully navigate your site and complete at least one of your call to actions. Whether this action may be making a reservation, filling out a form, or reading important information. So from a marketing standpoint, 508 compliance sounds logical, doesn’t it? Exactly.
Here is what The Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility program states about 508, “In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.” 1.
What goes into making a website 508 compliant?
There are many different ways to make a website more user friendly.
User that are living with CVD, Color Vision Deficiency, may have trouble differentiating colors on your site like buttons, images, or theme colors. But simple design elements like borders or using color contrast evaluation tools can make your site more user friendly.
A user with CVD may have trouble distinguishing buttons or links from regular text or background colors, making it difficult to navigate a website.
The image below is a footer on the bottom of a website. This is what a user without a vision impairment would see.
The next images are the same image from above, but as seen by someone with red-green CVD.
On the left, you can see the green background from the original image is seen as a brown. If any of these buttons had green or red in them, they may be hard to distinguish from the background color because there is no indicator when the button stops, and when the background starts.
On the right, we can see that the buttons are more defined, and have a clearer edge on them because of the added border. You can consider using size, placement, boldness, contrast, borders and icons to give buttons a little more pop.
Another tool you can use to aid with color coordination is the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker which will let you enter the background and text colors in comparison to each other and then either pass or fail your colors on readability.
Links: How many links can you spot on this page?
Answer: 9 links!
The image shows a page where the trend of using “clean links” was used, as seen from someone who cannot differentiate colors, or has poor eyesight. A clean link might be in a different color than the rest of the text, but it is not underlined. This is usually in an effort to make pages look less busy. 2.
Users that may have vision impairments like CVD or low quality vision may not be able to see these clean links. If they do not see the link is a different color, and it is not underlined, they might not know it is even there. This means their journey on your site may be over if they cannot find anywhere else to go.
Screen readers can be used to help people that cannot read or may be partially or fully blind navigate websites. However, screen readers read anything and everything on the page, and it’s not always in a normal reading pattern.
So to make your website more 508 compliant, you can make sure that your images, buttons, and elements are clearly labeled in their Alternate Description box, and that they don’t have plus signs or dashes in them, which some alternate description boxes do automatically.
If you fill out an Alternate Description box for an image on your page like this: Father-son-fishing-on-dock.
A screen reader would read aloud this: “Father dash son dash fishing dash on dash dock,” which would be difficult to understand for someone listening aloud.
Being 508 compliant can help any business
First of all, being a user friendly is something all sites should strive for. You never want your site to be difficult for potential customers to use. Being 508 compliant can help by expanding your reach and potential clients.
Those with color-blindness are not the only visually impaired users, and adding all people that are visually impaired greatly increases this population. The growing senior population often has the same difficulties with visual impairments (e.g., differentiating text and site elements). On top of this, there are many people outside of vision impairment with other disabilities, like fine motor skill or cognitive process impairments, that need to have access to technology.
In the end, being 508 complaint is a good business strategy; from a marketing point, if you could reach more customers and drive quality leads, why wouldn’t you?
Is your website 508 compliant?
As of right now, 508 compliance is only mandatory for federally developed and maintained technologies. If you’d like to see how 508 compliant your website is, you can use the WAVE Evaluation Tool and evaluate your site. This evaluation will result in a website summary, shown below, that details the potential 508 errors and how to fix them.
Looking to have your new website be 508 compliant? Connect with Art Unlimited about our custom web development projects today, and we’ll be glad to tell you more about your options.