Section 508 Standards and WCAG Guidelines for Web Accessibility Compliance
The population of individuals with disabilities is growing rapidly on a global scale. Imagine if your business’s or organization’s digital presence was not usable for these individuals? You don’t want this to be the case and, fortunately, there are standards put in place to ensure it’s not.
As years go on, the numbers continue to drastically rise, 19 percent of the population (about 56.7 million people) had a disability in 2010, according to the United States Census Bureau. As defined by the Americans with Disability Act, an individual is considered to have a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Within that large community is a group of diverse people with a wide range of needs, based on the way their disability interferes with their daily life. There are many types of disabilities that can affect a person’s ability to interact with the world around them, so it’s important to understand that two people with the same disability can be affected in very different ways and have very different outcomes.
Web Accessibility Can Be Complicated
Let TOBEADACOMPLIANT ensure you are headed in the right direction and are Prepared To Be Compliant with WCAG and Section 508 Standards.
The 4 Primary Categories of Disabilities
1) Hearing Impairments
If you are a hearing-impaired individual, the last thing you want to see when trying to communicate with a company is a phone number listed as the only form of contact. If you’re unable to hear well on the phone, you won’t be able to communicate effectively, or at all, with that company. That is a struggle many in the hearing-impaired community face on a day to day basis. According to the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), there are approximately 72 million people who are deaf worldwide.
Hearing is one of the traditional five senses. Hearing loss, deafness, being hard of hearing or having any hearing impairment is defined as a partial or total inability to hear. Hearing loss is caused by many factors and can create many difficulties. The ADA requires auxiliary aids and services for people who are deaf, have hearing loss, or are deaf-blind. Some of those services include closed captioning and text telephones (TTYs) and videotext displays. Following set standards ensures those with a hearing disability have a positive experience and can access your business or organization successfully.
2) Vision Impairments
When creating and building a website, we often become consumed with the need for a beautiful visual appearance. We focus on what graphics look the best and if the color scheme and fonts match correctly. However, have you considered those who are unable to effectively see your website? According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that approximately 1.3 billion people live with some form of vision impairment globally and 36 million people are blind.
Visual impairment is a decreased ability to see to a degree that causes problems. These problems are unable to be fixed by usual means, such as medication, surgery, or glasses. Visual impairments can be caused by many factors, including disease, trauma, or degenerative conditions. Through the use of technology, there are many ways to ensure easy access to the Internet by offering screen readers, special browsers, screen magnification and other various techniques. By offering those services, your business or organization will provide equal access to billions.
3) Mobility Impairments
Global Internet usage is rapidly growing for many reasons, some of which is due to the ease of being able to access services from the comfort of your home. For some people with physical and motor impairments, the Internet is one of the few ways to maintain independence. Through the use of the world-wide-web they are able to purchase supplies, do research, communicate with others and essentially, access the world.
People with these disabilities often use assistive devices such as canes, wheelchairs, crutches and artificial limbs, which can make travel and going into actual storefronts difficult. According to the CDC, 13% of the population in the United States suffers from a mobility disability. To ensure these individuals have the ability to have that lifeline and independence, a well-designed website that permits disability access is crucial.
4) Cognitive Impairments
If a person has difficulty with one or more average mental tasks, there is a chance that person falls in the category of having a cognitive disability. According to the Special Olympics, approximately 6.5 million people in the United States have a cognitive disability and 1 to 3 percent of the global population has been diagnosed with one. Cognitive disabilities can be classified in two ways: by clinical disability or by functional disability. Some diagnoses includes individuals with autism, Down Syndrome, dementia and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). These types of disabilities can cause issues with memory, attention, problem-solving, reading, verbal comprehension and visual comprehension among a long list of other symptoms.
Many of those symptoms just listed play a role when accessing the Internet and attempting to utilize a website. When accessing the web, an individual needs to remember which buttons to click, read the context of the pages, understand the graphics and other visuals represented. Without proper standards, it would be difficult or nearly impossible for someone with a cognitive disability to access a website effectively.
You may be wondering where the standards to ensure long-term accessible growth of the web come from — The World Wide Web Consortium, also known as W3C. W3C is an international community where full-time staff, member organizations and the public work together to develop web standards and practices. W3C’s primary goal is to make web benefits available to all people, regardless of language, geographical location, culture, or physical or mental ability, through the use of outreach, education, software development and open forums.
Standards, Best Practices, Guidelines and Specifications
W3C develops guidelines and technical specifications. They do so through a process designed to improve the content of their technical report, to ensure maximum editorial and technical quality and to earn an endorsement by the broader community, as well as by W3C. As the world wide web grows, W3C’s recommendations evolves along with it, so it is important to routinely monitor new publications to ensure updated recommendations are being followed.
Through the process of researching Web Accessibility, you may have heard about WCAG 2.1 — these are the standards W3C has set forth. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 provides recommendations and best practices to ensure web content is more accessible. By following these guidelines, not only will your business or organization benefit from great reviews and more traffic to your website, it will also provide equal access for people with disabilities. WCAG also offers guidelines for web content on desktops, mobile devices and tablets, as today’s society expands and technology continues to advance
If your website follows these standards established by W3C, your business is set for success in more ways than one.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, provides protection for citizens with disabilities. As a result of this amendment, Congress requires Federal agencies, including Institutions of Higher Education and Public Education, to make their electronic and information technology (EIR) accessible to people with disabilities. Following innovations in technology and market trends, the rule was updated and reorganized within Section 508 standards.
These guidelines for building websites with 508 compliance are specifically set forth for those with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities. Within these 508 compliance testing standards are specific criteria to cover software applications, operating systems, telecommunication products, computers, web-based information and applications, self-contained closed product, video and multimedia.
For those entities that use the Internet to communicate information about their goods, programs, or services, (the majority of businesses and organizations). they must be prepared to offer this accessible digital content barrier-free to all individuals.
What Are the Next Steps?
It can be intimidating to see so many section 508 standards and W3C guidelines for such a large and vastly growing population. You may be wondering how you can verify the compliance of your own business or organization with these standards.
At TOBEADACOMPLIANT Web Solutions, we are leaders in Web Accessibility Compliance to provide websites according to section 508 standards and W3C guidelines.
By partnering with our team of experts, we can ensure your business or organization is performing to the best of its ability on all technological platforms. Most importantly, it will adhere to WCAG 2.1 and Section 508 accessibility compliance standards.