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Accessibility All Attendees Gaige Hall 204

7 Things to Keep in Mind When Creating a 508 Compliant Website

Brigitte Ayerves Valderas

Brigitte Ayerves Valderas

Objective: Offer tasks that people can immediately apply to their websites either during or after the session. The session will include exercises, tools, and resources. 

7 Things to Keep in Mind to Make Your Site 508 Compliant

Some people may think that 508 compliance simply applies to people with disabilities. However, it’s another method of quality assurance. The effort ultimately ensures that everyone has access to information. In addition, it supports efficient and quick delivery of information, goods, and services. 


508 compliance is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It requires information and communication technology to be accessible to people with disabilities. Federal government agencies act as watchdogs by keeping track of accessibility efforts and improvements.


Take a moment to think of the systems, tools, and resources that make and enable computing. They are the devices and applications used to interact with the digital world like cloud computing, social networks, and internet and intranet websites. 


While 508 compliance mostly applies to websites associated with the federal government, savvy businesses will apply this to their sites as well to ensure their sites rank high. Remember, people who visit your site are on a journey. Some people will want to get what they need right away. In fact, they may already know the lay of the land. Others may need some guidance and some direction; in other words, they may need some hand holding. The ease of being able to do this matters.  508 compliance offers further clarity, consistency, and use for site visitors. 


Here are the top things to keep in mind:. 


Descriptive Titles. Much like a signpost on a roadway, people need cues to know exactly where they are and what their location is about. That’s what a descriptive title can do. It helps make the site searchable. 


Consistent Navigation. Upon getting some cues, your visitors want to know when and how they will show up so they can avoid getting lost. So, the site needs to be predictable. Including additional details to the content like clear headings and purposeful labels, especially in form fields, help. Making sure things look familiar and act the same can make the users feel more at ease. This is done by maintaining the same visual styles and web components or elements that exhibit the same function from one page to the next. 


Discoverable Content. We access websites many ways via a mobile device or laptop and we don’t use these devices the same way. We may rely on our keyboard on a screen or on our laptop. We may simply use a mouse. Therefore, you need to consider having more than two ways to find information on your site. This includes links on each page for navigation or a page that includes a site map. 


Correct HTML. HTML tags not only give meaning to sections throughout the website, but they also inform browsers and assistive technologies how to browse the site.  


Alternative Text. Too often fields for alternative text fields fall low on the priority list or they are missed altogether. However, alternative text plays an important role. It helps search bots analyze a page by giving descriptions about the appearance of an image and/or how an image may behave. Screen readers read these descriptions; and, when the application doesn’t load the alternative text appears. 


Accessible PDFs. One of the pain points for federal agencies looking to ensure accessibility are PDFs. PDFs are often a main document type when searching through  online archives and databases. The problem is that some PDFs may only show images; require horizontal and vertical scrolling making it difficult for those relying on screen magnifiers; display inaccurate tags resulting items read out of order by screen readers; and, they may also have empty alternative text fields. So, it’s important to not only apply the checks used for websites like logical order and consistent icons and buttons to PDFs but also additional steps like not being too dependent on color.  


Finally, it’s important to adopt an accessibility mindset.  When you are adopting a mindset you are visualizing goals and ways to overcome challenges and constantly learning. P.O.U.R is a mindset that’s applied to accessible content. It comes from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The acronym stands for perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. People need to be able to perceive the content even with sensory limitations. They need to engage with the user interface and all of its elements, components, and navigation for operability.  And, once they're on the site, they need clear information so they can digest concepts and messages. Lastly, the site needs to be robust enough for assistive technologies, browsers, and digital devices to have access.

Additional Details:

  • Audience level: All Attendees
  • Topic: Accessibility
  • Room: Gaige Hall 204


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