As the demand for inclusivity intensifies, digital accessibility is a must-have feature for any company website. From increased legal protection to enhanced online sales and brand image, an accessible website is an essential part of your business strategy. It’s also an ethical obligation to over one billion people with disabilities. That’s why your in-house team must have a Section 508 compliance checklist.  

In the past, Section 508 only covered general web-related guidelines. However, recent amendments include numerous Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) requirements. This means following WCAG guidelines ensures your website also meets Section 508 compliance requirements.

First, let’s look at Section 508 and what it means to you.

What is Section 508 and Why Should You Care?

The Rehabilitation Act added Section 508 to protect people with disabilities and support disability rights laws. As a result, every federal government department, federally-funded organization, and educational institution must follow Section 508 standards. These guidelines apply to any operating system, website, app, hardware package, software package, and multimedia element.

If your website or online content includes barriers for people with disabilities, you violate federal law and could face a costly lawsuit that permanently damages your brand’s reputation. In short, your business could lose thousands in fines and potential sales with a non-compliant site. On the other hand, conforming to Section 508 can help mitigate costly legal consequences, enhance your brand image, and broaden your user base.

What Are The Main Section 508 Compliance Requirements?

Section 508 accessibility requires all federal electronic information to be accessible to people with disabilities. These requirements apply:

  • Desktop & Portable Computers: The Rehabilitation Act discusses guidance for standardized desktop and laptop computers, as well as operating controls, including keyboards and touch screens.
  • Self-Contained & Closed Products: Users can’t add or connect their properties to these products. For example, specific access features must be built to ensure full compliance for fax machines, printers, kiosks, and other products.
  • Software Apps & Operating Systems: Software and web browsers must be accessible through keyboard navigation to satisfy compliance laws.
  • Telecommunication Products: Mobile devices and voicemail functionality must be compatible with various assistive technologies (e.g., hearing aids).
  • Videos/Multimedia: Multimedia captioning and audio descriptions help people with disabilities to understand video content contextually. 
  • Intranet & Internet Apps: Intranet and internet apps must be compatible with assistive tech, so people with disabilities can access digital content.

You’re probably ready to put this new info into action! Start with the helpful tips below.

10 Tips for Your Section 508 Compliance Checklist

In addition to 508 compliance testing, there are numerous ways to make your site accessible, often supported by assistive technology tools

  1. Provide Understandable Imagery:

All pictures, images, and documents must be easily searchable and have accessible elements like alt text for people with vision-related disabilities.

  1. Supplement Your Audio & Video

Sync all captioning to ensure audio transcripts and videos contain transcript elements.

  1. Offer Keyboard Navigation

Not all website visitors can use a mouse, so provide headings, lists, and other variables to accommodate keyboard navigation.

  1. Integrate Accessible Forms & Files

Users with screen readers need access to all your forms and documents (e.g., PDFs) with the ability to submit them on your site.

  1. Provide “Skip Navigation” Functionality

This enables website visitors to scan around blocks of navigational elements to find the main content they want. 

  1. Prevent Coding Mistakes

This primarily requires thorough WCAG expertise, coupled with frequent training for your development team. Additionally, incorporating accessibility checks into your regular code review and testing processes can catch and correct errors before they become issues. Instead you can start with the UserWay Widget and use Fix My Code during development.

  1. Minimize Special Effects

You should avoid text-related special effects (e.g., flashing or blinking) altogether, as they will likely fail to meet Section 508 requirements for people with seizure disorders.

  1. Use Alt Text Holistically

Apply alt text to all graphical variables, including illustrations, charts, and photos.

  1. Use Explicit Hyperlink Descriptions

Use precise text descriptions in your links. Avoid generalities (e.g., “Click Here”) and simply tell users what they need to know (e.g., “Get Product Details”). Make sure the link makes sense out of context, as many assistive technology users will look at only a list of links.

  1. Use Appropriate Color Contrast

People with low vision and color blindness can’t delineate specific colors. Therefore, use proper brightness and contrast levels for text and background colors to meet Section 508 compliance. 

Ready to start your accessibility journey? Learn how UserWay can help you apply these tips to make your website more accessible and compliant. 

UserWay Helps You Meet All Compliance Laws

Conforming to Section 508 supports people of all abilities and protects your website from legal complications. That’s why UserWay’s AI-Powered Accessibility solutions are trusted by over one million websites worldwide. It’s a surefire approach to satisfying Section 508 and all other regulatory guidelines.

Schedule time with an accessibility expert today. 

Answers to Common FAQs

How is Section 508 Different from the ADA?

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act concerns federally-funded agencies and organizations–including contractors and suppliers. These organizations must provide digital communications that comply with WCAG Level AA.

The ADA applies to businesses and organizations that serve the public–including nonprofits and regional and state governments. Trends in lawsuits are ruling the ADA applies to websites and mobile apps.

ADA and Section 508 indirectly relate to each other and private companies. Specifically, Section 508 has adopted WCAG as the compliance benchmark, which has also become the legal standard for ADA cases. This likely means all companies (private or public) will soon need to comply with digital accessibility. 

Does Section 508 Apply To Private Companies?

Only if your organization gets federal dollars. Then you must meet Section 508 compliance, but all organizations should strive to do the same. That’s because digital accessibility is a human right, meaning everyone has a right to access and use the Internet the same way. 

Another reason private companies should also comply with accessibility standards is because it qualifies them for government contracts.

What’s the Difference Between Section 508 and Reasonable Accommodation?

  • Section 508 relates specifically to ICT. All information and communications technology that people need to obtain information or fulfill their employment obligations. 

What are The Main Examples of ICT? 

  • Smartphones and tablets
  • TVs
  • Any websites
  • PDFs
  • Online instructional information
  • All computer types
  • All apps