It feels like the world becomes a little bit more digital each day. Some companies have even moved their entire business models online, largely as a result of COVID-19. When it comes to government organizations, we are starting to see more in the digital realm, as well, including access to forms, training, and more.
As technology continues to play an ever-increasing role in peoples’ lives, the need for accessibility of technology is becoming glaringly obvious. This is where Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act comes in.
What is Section 508?
Under Section 508, “[federal] agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information comparable to the access available to others.” While Section 508 specifically applies to government agencies, private businesses must also provide accessible websites according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Ultimately, what it comes down to is that if your organization, whether private or federal, does not provide equal access to technology, you may have a lawsuit filed against you. In fact, small private businesses have been sued for upwards of $10,000 for non-compliant websites.
How Can I Improve Accessibility?
To avoid a potential lawsuit, there are a few ways you can improve accessibility on your website:
- Offer different font sizes – People who are low vision often need a larger font option than the website’s original design offers. Adding in font size options that are easy to get to can help. Just be sure that the font that you choose is easy to read to begin with. Avoid scripts and other “pretty” fonts in favor of plain and simple.
- Make it keyboard navigable – Screen readers are incredibly useful for people who are blind. However, in order for them to work properly, the website needs to be keyboard-friendly
- Provide different formats – Today, providing just text often is not enough. You also want to add video, clear images, and text-to-voice options. The more ways that people can access your content, the better.
- Add image alt tags – Alt tags help to describe exactly what an image on a website is so that screen readers can identify the image out loud. Essentially, it allows them to “read” the picture.
These are not the only items you need to consider when following Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, but they offer a good starting point. It is always advisable to consult with an expert in the field. They will be able to review your website and let you know any spots that may be lacking.
What Happens if I get a 508 Accessibility Complaint?
Both Section 508 and ADA accessibility complaints are becoming increasingly common. Following these laws and providing accessibility not only makes the lives of people with diversabilities (diverse abilities) easier, but it also protects your organization from potentially paying a hefty fine or getting caught up in a time-consuming lawsuit.
If you get a complaint, you should immediately contact a lawyer as well as a specialist in Section 508 compliance. At Applied Development, we have years of experience helping private businesses as well as government agencies with Section 508 and ADA compliance.
Give us a call at 410.571.4016 today for more information!