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Section 508: It’s Time to Update Your Site’s Accessibility

Is your website accessible for all users, even those with disabilities or undergoing rehabilitation?

If you’re not sure, it’s time to check. As of January 18 of this year, all federal agencies and any business or organization doing business with these agencies must comply with new accessibility standards under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communication Act (intended to align with the global Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 or WCAG). This means all your websites, web apps, video, and other customer-facing content need to follow the updated rules by January 18, 2018. To guide you on this process, here is a list of frequently-asked-questions.

What do I need to know about the Section 508 updates?

1. This sounds like a HUGE change. What specifically do I need to change or update?

Because the 508 changes are based on WCAG 2.0, you can use this checklist to ensure your site meets their standards. This list is extensive, so here are some summary guidelines to help you meet WCAG standards before you dive into the detailed checklist:

  • Ensure your video content has appropriate subtitles and captions so a hearing-impaired person would be able to consume it.
  • Ensure your images and video content have audio options so a visually-impaired person would be able to consume it.
  • Ensure your site is navigable via a keyboard interface so a movement-impaired user would be able to access your content.
  • Use Semantic Markup and proper Heading Tags so assistive devices will be able to interpret your content for users with special needs.
  • Provide clear text descriptions of where links will redirect users, especially if a link will open a new browser window.
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2. What if I don’t do business with the government?

Even if your business doesn’t work directly with federal agencies, you need to consider these changes and make a plan to follow them. Section 508’s changes are going to have a lasting impact across the internet landscape, so your customers are going to expect the same service from your technology that they get from websites who must comply. There’s also an excellent chance these requirements could be extended to other organizations after the 2018 deadline.

3. What’s the penalty for non-compliance?

The worst-case scenario is you could face a class-action lawsuit, some of which have cost more than a million dollars (after which those organizations still needed to fix their accessibility problems). Even if a complaint doesn’t go to court or result in fines, your reputation could suffer as affected users take to social media to air their grievances. In short, your business is definitely better off making a plan to comply rather than rolling the dice.

4. If this rule just became official, why is January 2018 the compliance date?

Though this change just became official, the federal government will not enforce compliance until next year. This gives organizations and businesses like yours time to learn about and implement the needed changes.

If you’d like a partner to help adapt your website and applications to comply with the Section 508 update, ABT is here to help. Contact us today to schedule a whiteboard session to plan how you will update your content.

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