What You Need To Know About Updates to the Section 508 Accessibility Standards - Envision Technology Advisors' blog

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What You Need To Know About Updates to the Section 508 Accessibility Standards

How accessible is your website for individuals with disabilities?

The answer to this question is important for all websites. However, if you are a federal organization or if your site is built with federal funding, you are required to maintain certain standards of accessibility.  The Section 508 Standards are used for these federally-funded websites – and those standards are now going through their biggest change in nearly 20 years. This means that even if your website is compliant today, it may need additional development in order to meet these new standards prior to the January 2018 deadline.

What Are Section 508 Standards and What Is Changing?

Established in 1973 as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, these standards “apply to information and communication technology…that can be accessed by the public and employees with disabilities.” These standards were updated in 1998 and again in January of 2017.

The most recent Section 508 update is a significant one. It aims to modernize the standards to reflect changes in technology, specifically the “convergence of technologies and the increasingly multi-functional capabilities of products such as smart phones.”  Because of this convergence and the blurring of what one device can do versus another, these new standards are arranged based on features rather than types of products. Additionally, these changes “bring harmonization with international standards, most notably the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0).”  These are the standards that Envision has long used for accessibility testing, so this update is actually in line with our current best practices.

What Impact Does This Have On My Website?

At the very least, even if your website currently meets the 508 Standard, it should be tested using the WCAG 2.0 guidelines to see how it will measure up to the revisions. The deadline to be compliant with these updates is January 18, 2018, so there really is no time to waste. If your site does need additional development to become compliant, early testing will ensure that you have the time needed to make those updates prior to the deadline.

I Am Not Federally Funded – So What About My Site?

Even if your site is not federally funded, accessibility is something you should care about. Litigation around website accessibility has been increasing in the private sector and it’s a trend that’s likely to continue.

Likewise, ensuring that your website can be effectively accessed by all people, including those with disabilities, makes sound business sense. After all, the more people who can access your site, the more people you can engage or do business with. In addition to any financial reasons to care about accessibility, it’s also the right thing to do. Just like you would want to ensure your office building is equipped with accommodations for visitors with disabilities, your website should also make those same accommodations. 

What Do I Do Next?

Contact Envision to learn more about our accessibility testing and compliance services. We can test your site against WCAG 2.0 standards and deliver a report that will clearly detail our findings, as well as recommendations to make your site more accessible to meet, and even exceed, the current standards.

We will also be hosting a half-day event focused on this topic on Thursday, July 20th at the Save the Bay Center in Providence, RI. This no-cost event is open for registrations now.

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