By Kevin Alvey, UI/UX Design Lead
Government-funded products are required by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to be created and managed in a manner that is accessible to persons with disabilities. While specific criteria are included in these standards, the techniques for conforming to them can be as much art as science.
Unfortunately, many agencies and organizations consider 508 compliance an afterthought, often taking a superficial approach to compliance by simply adding alt text to images.
While such activities may demonstrate effort, they tend not to meet the spirit of the law as it was intended. The fact is, the Federal Government’s Section 508 website explains the comprehensive nature and goals of 508 compliance, including mobile and software guidance, testing tools, captioning tools and resources. With the resources and guidance the Government provides, there is really no excuse for ignorance or inaction.
Innovations in accessibility continue every day and only by taking a baked-in approach to building accessible interfaces can we hope to truly enable those who are limited by navigable properties of assistive technologies.
At IntelliDyne, we adhere to standard processes that include leveraging the evolving standards of the web. These include:
Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) define ways to make web content and applications more accessible to people with disabilities, notably dynamic content. What is dynamic content? Mozilla explains it this way:
“Dynamic content on a web page can be particularly problematic for users who, for whatever reason, are unable to view the screen. Stock tickers, live twitter feed updates, progress indicators, and similar content modify the DOM in ways that an assistive technology (AT) may not be aware of.”
So, ARIA is a complement to HTML that enables dynamic content used in web applications to be passed to assistive technologies. It is supported by all major web browsers.
2. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
Websites and applications should also meet the WCAG color standards which are based on the four principles that web products should be perceivable (by one or more senses), operable (UI elements must be clickable or be manipulated by voice), understandable, and robust (workable across a wide range of web browsers and products, both now and in the future). These standards are not merely subjective, but are based upon testable success criteria.
For example, whether strong or soft colors are used, or whether web applications only use monochrome colors (ranges of black and white), there must be a certain standard of contrast between colors in order to ensure comprehension by the reader or visitor.
3. The WebAIM Checklist
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) is a non-profit organization that provides information for web developers, webmasters, and others interested in accessibility of web content for people with visual, motor, cognitive, and hearing disabilities.
WebAIM’s checklist presents their recommendations for implementing accessibility principles and techniques for those seeking WCAG conformance, and can be found here.
4. A Development Process Focused on Testing
For those who enjoy learning by video, here is a good overview of the technology involved with accessible web applications, including ARIA, WCAG, and 508 Compliance:
GSA’s Compliance and Enforcement Efforts
Failure to comply with Section 508 could not only inhibit access to important information for people with disabilities, but could expose your federal agency to litigious advocacy groups or get your site flagged by watchdog agencies. For example, GSA has already developed a new 508 scanner tool to ensure compliance with accessibility mandates. The tool, scheduled to go live in September 2019, is built with artificial intelligence (AI) technology intended to identify non-compliant websites.
IntelliDyne can help you ensure your site is reliable, secure, and accessible to the broadest audience possible.