What You Need to Know About Updates to the Section 508 Accessibility Standards?
What are section 508 accessibility standards?
Section 508 Standards governs the electronic devices and information and communication technology (ICT) procured by federal-funded sites or federal organizations taking into account the computer hardware and software, copiers, phones, and also websites. Section 508 Standards were released under the Rehabilitation Act and they require that information and any other activity which is funded by the federal government should be accessible to the public or employees with disabilities (sensory, cognitive, or physical disabilities). As part of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), this section covers technical standards specific to the performance-based requirements and the technological essentials relating to the functional capabilities of the products covered.
Recently, Section 508 accessibility standard went through a thorough review and several changes and updates were made. Therefore, even if your website was fully compliant, you may require to review it and maybe include some additional features for it to conform to the current website accessibility standards.
Changes and updates made to Section 508 Accessibility Standard.
Accessibility requirement for ICT contained in the Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act 1973, was updated and the final rule was given in January 2017 by the US Access Board. Section 508 Accessibility Standard was revised with the following objectives:
- Improving accessibility to information technology for persons with disabilities.
- Keeping up with the constantly changing technology and modernization.
- To ensure that the requirements in the standards are easier to follow and understand.
- To ensure that the requirements conform to what is required by other international standards.
Every information and communication technology (ICT), including website, web app, digital document, agency, or contractor was expected to fully comply with the updated Section 508 Standards from January 18th, 2018. Below are some of the major changes in the Section 508 revised Standard.
- Focus on functionality. In the revised standard, products are to be organized according to their functionality rather than their type so as to keep up with the technological advances. If your application or website is inaccessible because of using software or technology which is not recognized under Section 508 Standard, or if its inaccessible because the technical compliance fails to translate to a suitable user experience, you are required to review the Functional Performance Criteria to clarify Section 508 compliance. Functional Performance Criteria demands that you provide options which can address the type(s) of disability which are unable to access your ICT.
- Adoption of WCAG AA 2.0 for contents (Software, web, and electronic documents). Web including websites, webpages, WordPress accessibility, and web apps; software and native apps (new or altered), and digital contents such as official agency communication, documents, data and media, and digital contents on mobile are required to comply with WCAG AA 2.0 standards.
- Revision to Section 255, Telecommunication Act. Section 255 is the standard that regulates telecommunication service providers and also equipment manufacturers. This standard was primarily updated to take into account the current advancements in telecommunication technologies specifically the mobile and smartphone technologies. This standard also now regulates the software and apps which are integrated in the mobile devices. Section 508 Accessibility Standard requires all telecommunication devices to be in compliance with Section 255.
- Authoring tools compliance.This was included to regulate authoring tools including Dreamweaver, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Office, etc. These authoring tools are required to have features that facilitate making of accessible content. Also, Section 508 Accessibility standard requires these tools to have modes of operation which have accessibility prompts and accessible templates.
- Expanded marketplace.The revised standard also incorporates related international standards including WCAG 2.0 (Web Contents Accessibility Guidelines) and the EN 301 549 (European Commission ICT Standards) to create web standards, to clarify the suitability of software, websites, and electronic documents, and to facilitate the creation of a wider marketplace for accessible solutions worldwide.
If your website was compliant with the previous Section 508 Standards, it may not necessarily be compliant with the revised standards. Testing against WCAG 2.0 guidelines is therefore necessary to test to determine the accessibility of your website. Given that the deadline to conform to the new standards was on January 18th, 2018, time is so much gone. Testing your website will be so much helpful as it will determine if your website is compliant. Testing will also point out the developments to be made including accessible WordPress themes and other features which may be required for the website to be compliant.
What if your site is not federally funded?
As earlier mentioned, Section 508 Standards apply to the federal organizations and federal-funded sites. However, website accessibility is something that you should have as a priority for your websites. Lawsuits due to website inaccessibility in private sector have been made and the trend seems to be continuing.
Regardless of the sole purpose of your website, making it accessible even to people with disabilities will lead to increased traffic. If your website is for your business, making it accessible to all people is a perfect way of growing your business. The more the people you have in your website, the higher the chances of turning them into your permanent and devoted customers. You, therefore, don’t need to be a federal organization or to be federally funded so as to have a website that is accessible.
After going through this article you must have made a thoughtful conclusion. Accessibility of websites to all people including those with a disability is essential regardless of the type of website. Would you like to get more information on ways of making your website accessible? Are you interested in knowing the performance of your website when tested against accessibility standards? Looking for web accessibility services in India?
The Ananyoo Team can help you to measure the performance of your website against WCAG 2.0 through a free scan which delivers a detailed report about our findings. After contacting us, we offer you free 30 minutes which we utilize by making consultations concerning the accessibility of your website after which we give recommendations to help you improve the accessibility of your website. Get in touch with us through our Contact Us page.
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WordPress and Accessibility Lover. I realize that a Website or an Application is a constantly developing project and requires long-term assistance to make it perfect. Let me blend my accessibility skill with seamless design and development integration using WordPress to make a perfect website for you. I can be your team or become part of your team or let me help when you have a tricky design or development issue and need support. Whatever it is, I will be there to make your things beautiful, accessible, and functional.