You will likely come across the phrase “508 Compliance” regularly if your business involves website operations. What does the term mean? Section 508 is an amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is a federal law requiring all electronic and information technology (EIT) developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government to be accessible to people with disabilities.
508-compliance, therefore, involves all EIT developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government to be accessible to people with disabilities. For websites, it means ensuring people with limited vision or blindness, deafness, seizure disorders, and other forms of disabilities can use them.
The Justification For 508 Compliance
The fact that roughly 20% of all Americans have a disabilityof some kind, with about half of these being severe disabilities, underpins Section 508 compliance.
If your web-related business ignores the accessibility needs of this audience comprised of people with disabilities, it negatively impacts your website page views and limits the website’s statistics. It also isolates your products and services from a large market.
Features Of 508 Compliance
The major features of Section 508 compliance include closed captioning and subtitles; screen reader capability; accessibility using a keyboard; skip navigation links; alternative image text; alternative iFrame/video text; color allocation and contrast; color schemes and page layout for avoidance of seizures; avoidance of block zoom; and timeouts.
With all these features, how can you assure website 508 compliance? This was a problem that many businesses faced, but thanks to the Information Technology Industrial Council (ITI), which in 2001 created the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) in collaboration with the U.S. government’s central procurement office to address the general problem of matching EIT product features to Section 508 accessibility requirements with the help of a checklist. This made the VPAT accessibility concept prominent, which today underlines the Section 508 compliance domain.
What Is VPAT Accessibility?
VPAT accessibility refers to the degree to which a certain EIT product complies with Section 508 Standards. It entails filling out a self-disclosing VPAT form that explains every facet of the Section 508 compliance standards and how the product under consideration supports each criterion listed in the requirements.
Buyers of the product utilize the VPAT forms completed during VPAT assessments that precede a product’s VPAT compliance certification to assess the product’s accessibility and identify any potential accessibility flaws that the product has. Prior to making a purchase, some customers, especially federal government agencies, usually demand VPAT accessibility compliance reports for the products they are interested in.
What Is VPAT Compliance In Ensuring Website 508 Accessibility?
Web content accessibility standards (WCAG) and Section 508’s technological criteria are the basis for the term “VPAT compliance” for websites. VPAT compliance for a website describes the amount of accessibility conformance the particular website has attained based on the guidance provided by the VPAT version being used in the assessment.
A, AA, and AAA are the three WCAG conformance levels that serve as the foundation for website VPAT evaluations. Level A describes the fundamental, absolute minimum accessibility standards that a website must adhere to. Even if it is regarded as helpful to a wide spectrum of website users, at this level your website will not entirely satisfy the needs of those with impairments.
The most significant barriers to website access for people with disabilities are addressed at Level AA. A website is deemed to meet the needs of the majority of users with disabilities at this level.
The highest accessibility standards are attained at level AAA. The level addresses the more complex access impediments that affect people with disabilities. Because some of the level AAA accessibility criteria’s components cannot be implemented for all forms of digital content, WCAG emphasizes that level AAA compliance is not a requirement for all websites.
Perceivable, Operational, Understandable, and Robust are the additional four website accessibility principles offered by WCAG 2.1 in addition to the three compliance levels above. The abbreviation “POUR” makes these easy to remember. Your website will not be regarded as accessible to people with disabilities if it does not adhere to these principles.
To make your website Section 508 compliant, given all these requirements and the technical reality involved in accurately completinga VPAT, it is always advisable to seek help from a VPAT accessibility professional like ADA Compliance Pros to help you with the VPAT assessment aimed at making your website 508 compliant.
Need Help Making Your Website Section 508 Compliant?
You can get help to make the website Section 508 compliant. For more information about assistance with 508 website compliance, click here or call (626) 486-2201 to talk to aSection 508 VPAT compliance expert today.