508 Compliance – What Is It?
You may have seen 508 Compliance pop up here and there. It certainly isn’t a new law, it’s just evolved over time. In fact, it dates back to the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.
Most people are unaware of this because the regulations have changed over the past few decades.
So what is 508 Compliance?
508 Compliance requires websites and other technologies to be accessible to those with disabilities. This includes but is not limited to the following:
- Physical disabilities
- Speech disabilities
- Cognitive disabilities
- Hearing disabilities
- Visual disabilities
This leaves website owners questioning whether or not they have to be 508 Compliant. The requirement applies to federal government websites and higher learning organizations. Government contractors also must adhere to this requirement. If you don’t fall in that category it’s easy to ignore being 508 Compliant altogether, but think about all the potential viewers you could be missing out on. The CDC states that one in four Americans have some sort of disability. You also may find yourself in a bit of a gray area. If your website provides a product or service but it isn’t within reach of someone who is disabled, it may lead to a lawsuit.
If you’ve been thinking of ways for your website to become 508 compliant, then you’re in luck. You can start by choosing the correct colors. Choosing high contrast colors will help with satisfying the requirement. If the contrast is too low, then someone who is colorblind will find it difficult to access your website. You can also make a push for compliance by making non-decorative images have alternative text. Be sure to describe the image in your alt text. Doing so can give people who can’t see the image an idea of what is on display.
Making the effort for compliance is a great step to making your site accessible to more people, but how do you know if it’s enough? Web Content Accessibility Guidelines have grouped the requirements on three levels. These levels are A, AA, and AAA. There are many factors that can determine which level you will want to reach. For example, you should take into consideration whether or not you are selling products or services to the government. If the government has to adhere to requirements and you’re selling products and services to the government, it’s wise to strive for the highest level.