Web Accessibility under Section 508 diagnosed!!

Web accessibility, as the name suggests, is the practice of making a website usable by people of all genre. All users can access the internet with ease only if the site is designed, developed and edited without errors. In fact, incorrect technology used for a website can be regarded as an obstacle to gaining information quickly and conveniently.

These obstacles can vary in all senses. For instance, if the text is not enlargeable, users with poor sight will not be able to understand the content; or else, when the clickable links are not larger than the rest of the text, it will be difficult for a user who cannot hold the mouse with precision. Moreover, when the content is without any illustrations, diagrams or animations, learning difficulties arise in case of dyslexic users. Thus when all sites are correctly built, there will be no barriers for any user in web accessibility.

To users facing difficulty in accessing the internet with ease, Section 508 Web Compliance answers it all.

Let’s find out what history says about the inception of Section 508:

The Rehabilitation Act was thus amended by Congress in the year 1998 to require the Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. In order to eliminate the barriers in information technology, to make new opportunities available for people with disabilities, Section 508 web compliance was endorsed. Under Section 508, only the Federal sector will enjoy the scope of this law. This compliance encourages development of technologies that will help fulfill the motive of making web accessibility more popular.

Since technology is what comprises the web, Section 508 has fixed up certain technical standards. These technical standards are defined below:

Operating Systems and applications of the software: This standard relates to people who are visually impaired and are provided with alternative keyboard navigation for easy access to the internet. These people cannot rely on pointing devices like mouse but animated displays, color and contrast settings, flash rate, electronic forms, can serve the purpose.

Information shared on the web and its applications: It assures the accessibility to web page graphics for visually impaired people. Assistive technology like screen readers, text labels and descriptors for graphics are a few tools that are invented for easy use of the internet for the disabled few.

Products used for Multimedia services: Captioning of multimedia products such as video programs, narrated slide production, and computer generated presentations are required for certain training and informational multimedia productions. This enables the viewers to turn captioning or video description features on or off.

Products limited to oneself: These are products that have imbedded software but are designed in such a way that no assistive technology can be easily attached or installed by the user, as they are self contained. This standard declares that the user does not require attaching an assistive device to it for assessing the system. Such products include information kiosks, information transaction machines, copiers, printers, calculators, fax machines, etc.

Products used for telecommunication: This standard includes products that are technologically compatible with hearing aids, assistive listening devices, teletypewriters, etc. It encourages accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Apart from this, there are a few guidelines to follow for making a website web accessible and that is fixed by Section 508:

Provide substitutes for auditory and visual content. The pre-recorded audios serve the purpose for the blind as well as people having reading difficulties; and when the texts are displayed visually or images are used, the deaf are benefited.

Don’t be color dependent alone. The texts and graphs that are displayed on the website should convey the information even when without colors. People with different types of color deficits will not be able to receive the information if sufficient contrast is not provided.

Make proper use of markup and style sheets. The use of markup or style sheets should be proper because any kind of improperness obstruct accessibility. It is mostly observed that content developers misuse constructs that does not result in the desired formatting effect when used on old browsers. On the other hand, the use of mark up should be such that there are no difficulties while processing in any kind of browser or assistive technology. Thus the content developers must be aware that however critical the formatting effect might be, it should not hinder accessibility to users of any disability.

Proper use of natural language. It is necessary that the content developers provide proper abbreviations and acronyms to make the document more accessible to multilingual users. When one uses the natural language markup, it improves readability of the web for all people despite of their learning disabilities, cognitive disabilities, and also people who are deaf.

New technologies should not hamper web accessibility. Content developers always intend to use new technologies and while doing this, one should make sure that the pages still work with the older browsers. No doubt, new technologies solve all problems raised by the existing ones but web accessibility should be the priority.

Provide clear navigation mechanisms. The navigation mechanisms include orientation information, navigation bars, site maps, etc. In order to increase the enthusiasm for a person while looking for at a site, these navigation mechanisms should be understandable and consistent. This is important for people with cognitive disabilities or blindness.

The documents should have clear-cut language. Clear and simple documents are easily understood as it promotes effective communication. When the page layouts are consistent, graphics are recognizable, and the language is easily understandable, the people with cognitive difficulties or reading difficulties are benefited. Moreover, comprehensible language also benefits people who communicate primarily in sign language.

Thus, once you understand the accessibility requirements, one can determine the accessibility compliance and then translate those requirements into technical solutions. Having a far-reaching experience with assistive technologies and skilled knowledge of how people with disabilities interact with information technology, you will be able to make vital decisions with ease.

So why not make our websites easily accessible and add a helping hand to the law that was established with a genuine cause..!

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By:- Shabana Ahmed

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