Section 508 Compliance Requirements – How to Check if Your Website is Compliant?

Accessibility is a primary concern now, not only for the federal agencies and their associates but even for the business owners who maintain a website to communicate with the public. As about 20% of the American population is living some sort of physical or cognitive disabilities, it becomes increasingly necessary to create web content to be accessible to that category of users too.

Regulations mandating accessibility compliance

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) demands different types of businesses to conform to accommodation for individuals with disabilities.
  • Web content must be made accessible to all disability categories like deaf, blind, and those who can only navigate with voice, those who want screen readers to understand the content, those who can only use a keyboard, and for those who use various types of assistive technologies to understand web content.
  • Businesses which fall under the category of Title I, which are operating for 20 weeks or more a year and having 15 or above full-time employees and the businesses which are Title III, falls under the “public accommodation” category are covered by ADA rules.
  • Failing to create ADA-compliant websites may further make a business prone to lawsuits and further financial liabilities. Moreover, noncompliance may also damage the reputation of business brands.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is generally associated with the physical accommodations of the brick and mortar businesses by ensuring accessibility to people with disabilities. Such accommodations usually cover the need for wheelchair accessibility, use of Braille for visually impaired, washrooms for differently-abled people, etc. However, with the latest amendments, ADA is getting extended to the digital world too, which requires businesses to make sure that their web space is also accessible to users with impairments.

Need for website compliance

So, the primary question by business owners is what an ADA-compliant website may look like and what is section 508 compliance requirements? In fact, there are no such clear regulations for ADS in terms of websites, but businesses which come under the ADA Title I or the ADA Title III need to offer websites with reasonable accessibility compliance for people with disabilities. All these guidelines will help the business website owners to build an easy and fully accessible portal. On the long run, it will help such websites to avoid any penalties initiated by ADA and to avoid any lawsuits related to compliance, which may adversely affect the brand reputation.

Which all businesses need to be ADA compliant?

The primary things you should consider about ADA is whether your business needs to be compliant. Technically, those who come under the ADA Title I, i.e., any businesses having 15 or more full-time employees and have 20 or more operational hours a week are covered. There is another category also as Title III, which are businesses which falls into the public accommodation category like all restaurants, hotels, public transportation, bank, etc. which need to be compliant. The entirety of the ADA applies to physical accommodations as well as digital considerations.

So, if your business falls under Title I or Title III and you find you must be compliant, then it is high time to consult an ADA/Section 508 compliance auditor and check your compliance level to take further measures.

In fact, considering accessibility compliance, it is advisable for all businesses to make their business sites compliant. This is not a burden, but a golden opportunity to expand your target audience. As we discussed above, about 20% of the Americans have physical disabilities, and if you can accommodate them also into your offerings by making your website ADA compliant, then you have the scope of reaching to more prospective customers and get more results.

Developing an ADA compliant website

There are many actions you can take to build a compliant website as there is no such clear definition as to how it should be and what you should do.  Primarily, accessibility of a website means assuring that all individuals who are physically debilitated like hearing, visual, or cognitive impairment must be able to navigate effectively through your website and meaningfully engaged with the web content. This can be achieved in various ways; however, a total revamp of your website for ADA compliance could be a hectic and costly task.

As a first step, the business owners should look into the regulations put forth by the Federal government and explore elated cases laws to have a clear understanding of the meaning of compliance and its measures. There are many risks related to building an accessible site by meeting regulatory guidelines, but this could safeguard your website once if all the compliances are established successfully. Here are some general methods through which businesses address accessibility concerns:

  • Create apt alt tags for the images as well as for audio/video files. Good alt tags will let the users with visual disabilities use the screen readers and other tools to hear the description and understand the content. Alt tags could describe the object as well as the purpose it serves.
  • Create proper transcripts for audio and video content online. Text description will help those who are hearing impaired to understand the content which is otherwise inaccessible to the.
  • Identify the language of the site at the header tag itself. You need to make it clear what language the site is using, which helps to choose the appropriate text reader or other accessibility tools.
  • You should offer alternatives for inputs if they face any problems. If a user encounters any input errors as they could only navigate your website in a different way than an able person, then the website should be able to properly navigate the disabled users by offering recommendations for the easy want to navigate.
  • Always create a well-organized and consistent layout for menus, links, and action buttons in a way that those are well delineated from each other and can easily be used by people with different abilities.

Failing to be compliant with the accessibility needs not only means that you are susceptible to the lawsuits, but it also means that your non-compliant businesses are losing a fair number of prospective customers by being inaccessible to them.

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