508 compliance for websites generally refers to website accessibility for users with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public services to provide equal access for people with differences in hearing, vision, and mobility. Websites are increasingly being included in the category of public services.
Unless a website has been designed for 508 compliance, users with adaptive reading devices (readers) and other modified interfaces will have a difficult time finding what they need. Most websites are designed for fully-sighted and hearing users. Many of the features that designers take for granted when building a website can limit or prevent access for users with disabilities.
The term “508 compliance” specifically covers federally-funded organizations; however, 508 compliance is being used as a shorthand for accessibility standards in all public services — not only those that receive federal funding.
Lawsuits on behalf of users with disabilities are increasingly being brought against private companies with 508 non-compliant websites. In 2015, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Reebok, by vision-impaired users, for failing to meet web page accessibility standards. Smaller companies with 508 non-compliant websites are equally at risk for litigation, especially in the hospitality and public services sectors — hotels, motels, ski resorts, family resorts, public transportation companies, casinos, etc.
Recently, the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) 2.0 standards were proposed as the benchmark for 508 compliant websites. From the W3C’s website: “The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability.” WCAG 2.0 sets a high bar for web page accessibility standards.
One of the biggest challenges for WCAG 2.0 conformance is that the website is assessed as a whole. Every single element on a website does not need to be accessible in order to be compliant — but elements that form a “complete process” must meet accessibility standards. Every page on a website that affects its usability must be assessed and updated in order to earn a WCAG 2.0 conformance rating.
Making your website 508 compliant requires a thorough understanding of the requirements, plus the technical skills to re-structure your website. Every page must be checked for correct use of HTML tags, image alt text, visual captioning and skip navigation to accommodate visual readers. Most websites that are more than 4 years old will not be 508 compliant without modifications.
Internet Marketing Magicians LLC offers website testing services for 508 & WCAG 2.0 compliance. Our specialists identify the vital processes that your website offers to users. This site audit checks against WCAG 2.0 standards to determine if your website could receive a conformance rating. Once we identify any issues that could affect web page accessibility, we can make the necessary structural changes to make your website ADA compliant.
Making your website 508 compliant will not only protect you from possible lawsuits: more importantly, it allows your organization to be socially responsible and inclusive for a diversity of users.
Internet Marketing Magicians LLC has the tools and the expertise to help you with 508 compliance for your website. Fill out our contact form or call us at (888) 490-6676 to speak with one of our consultants about making your website accessible.