“In 1998, the United States Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 helps eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals."
508 on Web Pages
People with visual disabilities surf the web every day using screen readers, but this is not an easy thing if the web page does not comply with section 508. This section is a set of rules that when applied correctly, help these users to have access to all the content, and use all the functionalities of the web page.
In order to comply with this section, the architect of the site has to make a careful planning of the structure, also talk with the developers and let them know the set of rules before the developing process; this will help avoid changes at the last stages of the project, when they are more difficult.
There are several sites on the web that can test the compliance of your web page, and also some toolbars and programs; for me, the easiest way to do this job is to use the Internet Explorer developer toolbar. Just open your web page on Internet Explorer, open the toolbar, and click on Validate > Accessibility > Section 508 checklist. This will open a new tab with the results of your test. (Hopefully all items passed!) Repeat this action as many times as needed…
Here’s the set of rules in a reduced format, so you have an idea of what I’m talking about:
- A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via "alt", "longdesc", or in element content).
- Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.
- Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup.
- Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.
- Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server-side image map.
- Client-side image maps shall be provided instead of server-side image maps except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape.
- Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables.
- Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers.
- Frames shall be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation.
- Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.
- A text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be provided to make a website comply with the provisions of this part, when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. The content of the text-only page shall be updated whenever the primary page changes.
- When pages utilize scripting languages to display content, or to create interface elements, the information provided by the script shall be identified with functional text that can be read by assistive technology.
- When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with §1194.21(a) through (l).
- When electronic forms are designed to be completed on-line, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.
- A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.
- When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate more time is required.
If you need your site to comply, you must have this set of rules on mind at all times.