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Web Acessibility, 508 Compliance and Web Standards

When it comes to following the World Wide Web Consortium’s best practices or having proper accessibility compliances such as Section 508, it is not a surprise to see such a diversity of adherence given how little organizations even know that these are things that should concern them.

Starting with the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C), there are recommendations and there are standards. The purpose is to make sure that certain techniques are being utilized in the same way across the web. This is a unified community effort to bring uniformity to web design and development. Each website we build will adhere to W3C standards and strongly take into consideration most recommendations. That said, we do move outside of certain standards where it doesn’t make sense or perhaps has very little impact for a certain industry given our experience on any one particular technique. Think of this level of validation as a set of guidelines that you want to follow, but not necessarily laws that need to be adhered too.

As for Section 508, it was made part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in 1998. Its purpose is to “…require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.” There are various levels of adherence that a federal agency may need to comply with. However, this is not a recommendation; this is a law that needs to be followed. So, that’s the law, but what is a Section 508 requirement?

As an example of Section 508 compliance: “A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via "alt", "longdesc" or in element content).” This just means that if there was an image on the page, there needs to be an Alt or Alternative Text description that describes that image so in the event the page is being converted to audio, the image can be described to the user. That seems simple enough, but this is typically the type of thing that is left out when corners are cut. There are lists of compliance related requirements that need to be followed and simply put, they all take time to executive properly.

In our opinion a well-built website will have a lot of these compliances covered already. However, it’s important to understand that whether we are talking about 30 pages of content or 1,000 pages, full compliance will take time and effort to verify conformity and this is not the type of thing you want to skip over when planning for your next website build or even when web updates are made.

If you have at least one takeaway from the text on this page, it would be to make sure you know what level of compliance your organization needs to have and partner with a professional firm such as Web Tech Fusion to implement and maintain those requirements.

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