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Section 508

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What is Section 508?

Called 508 for short, Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act requires that any organization receiving federal funds make their electronic information and services accessible to people with disabilities by complying with Section 508 standards.

For more information, see the Section 508 website or read their Section 508 Standards Guide.

Also read Transcend's summary of § 508 requirements: Making websites and PDFs accessible is not that hard.

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Who does § 508 help?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 20% of U.S. adults have a disability. As baby boomers age, the percentage of American adults with disabilities is increasing. Without 508 adaptations, many people with special needs will not have access to electronic information and services.

But 508 benefits all users because the standards require basic usability features, such as: simple language, good navigation, and readable formats. Other 508 standards make websites accessible in a variety of formats so that users who cannot see, hear, move, or process certain types of information can access the information and services through a variety of facilitating technologies, such as screen readers and head wands. (A screen reader is software that reads the text on the screen and outputs it as spoken voice or Braille. Head wands let users without mobility in other parts of their bodies interact with the computer. See the image below.)

Voter voting with a head wand

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How do you make your site and PDFs accessible?

Section 508 requires that you apply the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium standards (W3C standards, for short), which we list below.

Click on any link to get more information at the W3C site:

  1. Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content.
  2. Don't rely on color alone.
  3. Properly use markup and style sheets.
  4. Clarify natural language usage.
  5. Create tables that transform gracefully.
  6. Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully.
  7. Ensure user control of time-sensitive content changes.
  8. Ensure direct accessibility of embedded user interfaces.
  9. Design for device-independence.
  10. Use interim solutions.
  11. Use W3C technologies and guidelines.
  12. Provide context and orientation information.
  13. Provide clear navigation mechanisms.
  14. Ensure that documents are clear and simple.

Understanding the standards and applying them can seem daunting, at first. But most of the standards are simply best practices for all users.

For questions about how to make your site or PDFs accessible, contact us. We can give you more information about what the standards mean. We can also help you with:

  • § 508 evaluation and training,
  • Accessible PDF tagging, and
  • Hand-coded site-building.

Click here to learn more about our Web Accessibility Services.

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