Did you know that just a few deficiencies on your web site could get you sued? To make matters worse, one of the regulations involved predates the birth of the World Wide Web!
You need to make sure that your site legally complies with the guidelines laid out in Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. While this might sound like a mouthful, it’s an amendment to a law originally passed in 1973 as you might guess. Lawmakers took the opportunity, in 1986, to add provisions dealing with electronic and information displays.
In 1997, it was further revised to at least some degree and a year later there were additional qualifications added to it. Does this all sound confusing? In many ways, it is, but there’s help available from the experts at SiteCompliance.com, who can ensure that your site complies with all of these regulations.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, “Section 508 requires that all website content be accessible to people with disabilities. This applies to Web applications, Web pages and all attached files on the Intranet, as well as, the Internet.”
To make matters even more confusing, you may have heard that there’s technically nothing in Section 508 that influences private websites. This is actually true to a degree. Commercial best practices specify that private sites need to follow the guidelines laid out in the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), and these should satisfy all requirements of the 508 rules.
However, private sites that don’t receive any sort of federal funding or fall into a contract with the federal government don’t necessarily need to adhere to them. It’s a good idea to, though, because there’s always the possibility that you might end up with one in the future. These rules are just good design practices to get into anyway, and can help you connect with consumers who require accessibility features to engage in online commerce.
Government sites and those getting money need to adhere to these rules to the letter of the word, however. Federal agencies themselves can technically be in legal compliance and yet still not meet the technical standards. However, if you feel that such standards cause undue hardship and you’re developing for a federal agency you can request an exemption.
In most cases, this will be unnecessary. Most of the design guidelines are little more than design choices you might have already made. Captioning video and providing transcripts is an extremely easy thing to do, for instance. Limiting the usage of certain types of sound and color is good for performance reasons anyway, so your engineers might have made this call at is.
A majority of the technical standards laid out in Section 508 don’t apply to webmasters. Those that insist on providing keyboard navigation, which is normally supplied by a web browser. If you’ve already gotten into the practice of avoiding frames, then this shouldn’t be an issue.
An assurance of accessibility to web content can be had simply by providing a text description for every visual that you use. Text descriptions have a beneficial impact on SEO, so this shouldn’t be a problem either.
Should you have a site that’s riddled with individual frames, you might not have that much work to do anyway. Provide users a way to swap between menus or offer an accessible version of the site. You may remember that there was a time when many browsers didn’t support frames or animated GIF files. People used to provide a frameless version or a so-called printer friendly alternative. Combine this with a simple navigational aid like a site map and you might be ready to go.
Unfortunately, ensuring that any single website is compliant with this and other regulations isn’t as easy as just taking a look at a few things. You need to examine dozens of different parts of the site to make sure it fulfills the needs of countless individual guidelines. As a result, you need a tool that can scan through your site and point out potential problem areas. Contact us the moment that you’re ready to learn more about how Site Compliance can protect you from falling afoul of the law.