Section 508 Compliance Testing: Overview and Checklist
What is 508 Compliance?
The most recent guidelines in Section 508 apply only to federal agencies; however, they establish a strong legal precedent — non-governmental businesses and organizations would be wise to test their 508 compliance.
In this post, we’ll look at the benefits of Section 508 compliance testing, what it entails, and how to approach it.
What Are The Accessibility Standards for Section 508 Testing?
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content (such as images, or embedded tables)
- Provide alternatives for time-based content
- Create content that can be presented in different ways
- Structure content in a way that helps users see/hear it
- Ensure all functionality is available via a keyboard
- Provide enough time for people to read/use content
- Refrain from designing content in a way that is known to trigger seizures
- Provide structure and methods that help users to navigate a site or page, locate content, and know where they are on a page or site
- Ensure text is readable/understandable
- Design web pages to appear and operate as users expect
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes
- Maximize compatibility for current and future users, as well as assistive technologies
WCAG 2 also defines conformance requirements and levels of conformance.
Does Section 508 Apply to Every Website?
Knowing that accessibility guidelines may undergo revision and expansion at any time, all organizations would be wise to conduct 508 compliance testing to ensure they’re prepared for what may come next. Besides, making digital content accessible has many tangible benefits.
Benefits of Section 508 Compliance Testing
Section 508 compliance testing may seem like a daunting task that offers little to no return on investment. But Section 508 testing can help you:
Accommodate a wider audience
If your digital content isn’t accessible, you may be missing out on interactions with the 1 billion people in the world who have a disability. It’s a mistake for organizations to assume that people with disabilities are not consumers, or don’t need access to the same information that everyone else does.
Often, inaccessible websites are simply the result of failing to consider all the ways people might interact with content, which is why 508 compliance testing is so important.
Avoid costly lawsuits
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals did not weigh-in on whether the app and website were ADA-compliant but instead found that those digital properties were considered places of “public accommodation” and therefore should be accessible. ADA guidelines are separate from Section 508, but it’s reasonable to expect courts would apply the same logic when considering disability discrimination claims based on Section 508 compliance.
Improve search presence
Improve the overall user experience
What Types of Content Are Subject to Section 508 Compliance Testing?
For companies that make software, 508 compliance testing may involve looking for glitches or useability problems, along with ensuring users have options that improve accessibility, such as the ability to zoom in, or to configure visual and audio notifications.
Documents and PDFs
Documents and PDFs include internal and external digital content. Examples include warranties, policy statements, sales sheets, and marketing materials.
Spreadsheets and tables
Assistive reading technology interprets tables differently than a human website visitor would. Improving the accessibility of the information contained in a spreadsheet or table may involve reviewing coding in tables, formulas in spreadsheets, and reorganizing information.
Presentations, video & audio
This type of content includes sales presentations, website carousels, product demos, and tutorials.
How to Test Section 508 Compliance
Following are the three types of 508 compliance testing.
This is live-user testing.
Hybrid testing is ideal — it involves a combination of 508 compliance testing software and human expertise, to ensure the results of any software edit are not anomalies.
Section 508 Compliance Testing Checklist
Following are some best practices for getting started with 508 compliance testing.
Provide alternative content formats
Help users access content by providing alternative formats — for example, Braille displays, audio, large font, and video.
Ensure your website supports assistive technologies
Ideally, you should ask users of assistive technologies to interact with your site and offer feedback. Commonly used assistive technologies include JAWS (Job Access With Speech), and Tobii, an eye-tracking software that lets users navigate a site with eye movements.
Ensure your website is navigable with a keyboard
Website navigation should not require the use of a mouse. Consider whether a person using a mouth-stick would be able to interact with your site using only their keyboard. Making your website keyboard-accessible benefits all users, because people may be accessing your site via devices other than a desktop computer and a mouse.
Follow WCAG color contrast guidelines
Approximately 4.5% of the U.S. population has difficulty perceiving differences in hues. Content that lacks contrast may be difficult for some users to see. You can test your contrast and optimize accessibility using a free contrast-checking tool.
Avoid screen flickering
For people who have photosensitive epilepsy, flashing imagery or certain types of high-contrast patterns can trigger seizures. Some people without this condition may also have negative reactions to flashing lights, such as dizziness, migraine, or nausea. Avoid the use of flickering and flashing images in your content.
Remove time limits on content
Ensure that users of all abilities have adequate time to interact with content such as rotating image carousels, scrolling content, or checkout processes.
Add descriptive alt text to all images
Your content management system should allow you to add alt text for any image on your site. Keep in mind that alt text not only helps people using screen readers, it also helps search engines understand the images on your site.
Enable users to skip over lists and logos
People who don’t have the ability to scroll should be able to quickly jump past lists and logos to access the main page content.
Format links for accessibility
Assistive reading technologies may “read” through the links on a page as individual pieces, so simple call-to-action links — like “Read more” — don’t provide enough context for the user. Make links descriptive, such as “Read more about this product,” and don’t rely on color alone to highlight inline links.
Participate in ongoing accessibility training
Keep up with the latest developments in digital accessibility by attending annual training sessions. You may also want to use resources provided by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), such as user forums and working groups.
With training, and a hybrid approach to 508 compliance testing, you can be confident that your digital properties are accessible to all users.
Monsido Can Help Your Website Comply With Section 508 Guidelines
508 compliance testing is an ongoing process, and you’ll want to partner with a company that understands how and when to conduct testing, how to maintain an audit history, and how to remediate any accessibility issues.
Monsido’s software and compliance expertise helps organizations maintain ongoing accessibility and develop best practices for digital content management. Learn more about Monsido’s compliance solutions.