508 Compliance: Removing Barriers & Providing Accessibility for All
Understanding the Importance of 508 Compliance. Per section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 508 compliance ensures that Federal agencies make technology accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities. This section of the Rehabilitation Act addresses various means of distributing information to include electronic office equipment, computers, software, and federal pages on the Internet and Worldwide Web. According to www.access-board.gov, on August 7, 1998, President Clinton signed into law the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, which covers access to federally funded programs and services. The amendments strengthened section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and emphasized the development, procurement, maintenance, and use of electronics and information technology by all Federal agencies.
“Accessibility allows us to tap into everyone’s potential.” ― Debra Ruh
It is essential to point out that currently all federal agencies, organizations, and institutions receiving federal funding are required to be 508 compliant (i.e., government agencies, federal-funded nonprofits, public higher education institutions, etc.). Today, many private companies have decided to become compliant voluntarily.
Who is affected by 508 Compliance? Per the American Community Survey (ACS), conducted by the US Census Bureau annually, the percentage of people with disabilities in the US in 2016 was approximately 12.8%.
Findings from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey’s (NHIS) data release estimated that approximately 26.9 million adult Americans (that’s roughly about 10% of all adult Americans) conveyed that they either have difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, or that they are blind and unable to see at all.
Additionally, the Hearing Loss Association of America reported that approximately 48 million Americans (that’s roughly about 20%) report some degree of hearing loss.
Just based on the numbers mentioned above, and without looking at the figures for ambulatory disabilities and cognitive disabilities, one could quickly draw the conclusion that millions of people in the United States possess at least one disability that increases the relevance of Section 508. Hence, millions of people are directly impacted by 508 compliance.
Becoming 508 Compliant. Reaching complete 508 compliance can be a complicated process to undertake alone. It’s important to understand that everyone plays a part in carrying out Section 508. It is also important to reiterate that becoming 508 compliant goes beyond website development and website compliance. Effective 508 compliance includes your business documents, which are maintained through your remediation process. The internal staff inside an organization are accountable for communications and documentation that fall under Section 508, in addition to conducting business with contractors who are also responsible for being compliant.
Look at 508 compliance as an opportunity rather than a task. Transforming not only documents, but also your work-space, technologies, and processes can do wonders for your company’s culture. Accessibility ought to be looked at as a customer experience opportunity, ensuring your customers’ equal access to the materials your company produces. What’s the best way to ensure 508 compliance? We’d suggest partnering with a trusted accessibility expert to create an action plan around attaining and maintaining 508 compliance. Creating an accessibility plan can mitigate some of the complexities of 508 compliance.
Visual Connections (VC): 508 Compliance Solutions & Support Services
Applying the principles of user-centered design and usability, Visual Connections has extensive experience developing websites and web-based applications that are accessible to people with disabilities and compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, amended by Congress in 1998 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.
We use a combination of techniques to ensure compliance in the design, implementation, content authoring, quality assurance and maintenance phases. These include:
Automated tools for validation of content and code
Manual techniques to assess presentation, code compliancy and readability
Assistive technology to apply tools used by persons with disabilities to verify accessibility
Using these techniques in concert allows us to create a holistic approach to achieve Section 508 compliance, and performing remediation as necessary.
Visual Connections has extensive experience offering training for the visually and mobility impaired to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the Department of Health and Human Service, the Veterans Health Administration and to other commercial clients, such as GDIT. Our firm provides Section 508 training as requested to government contractors and government personnel. Additionally, our specialists have helped the technical teams on many government and private sector projects understand compliance regulations for the disabled, and developed processes to help them comply with Section 508. We specialize in remediation, training, and the delivery of Section 508 training materials.
If you have any questions concerning 508 compliance, please reach out to: Delia Tano, Our Visual Connections 508 Expert at email@example.com
Delia Tano is a 508 Compliance Specialist/Data Analyst at Visual Connections. Ms. Tano provides consulting support for Federal and Government projects on Section 508 and WCAG2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) by conducting requisition review, assessments testing and reporting, and providing remediation recommendations.
Ms. Tano specializes in assessing technical data for use in both technical and financial documents, verifying guidelines and regulations of governing project deliverables, as well as evaluating and documenting accessibility via the HHS Section 508 Product Assessment Template. Ms. Tano ensures technical documentation is accurate, complete, meets Section 508 compliance standards, and editorial and government specifications while adhering to industry standards for quality, graphics, coverage, format, and style.