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Section 508

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What is Section 508?

Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act requires any organization that receives federal funds to make their electronic information and services accessible to people with disabilities. That means they must comply with Section 508 standards.

For more information, see the Section 508 website or read their Section 508 Standards Guide.

Also read Transcend's summary of § 508 requirements: Making websites and PDFs accessible is not that hard.

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Who does § 508 help?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 20% of American adults have a disability. This percentage goes up as baby boomers age. Without 508 adaptations, many people with special needs cannot access electronic information and services.

But 508 benefits all users. That's because 508 standards require basic usability features, such as: simple language, good navigation, and readable formats. Other 508 standards make websites accessible in a variety of formats. Users who cannot see, hear, move, or process certain types of information can do so through various facilitating technologies. One example is a screen reader, which is a software that reads the text on the screen and turns it into spoken voice or Braille. Another technology is a head wand, which lets users without mobility in other parts of their bodies interact with the computer. (See the image below.)

Voter voting with a head wand

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How do you make your site and PDFs accessible?

Section 508 requires that you apply the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium standards (W3C standards, for short), which we list below.

Click on any link to get more information at the W3C site:

  1. Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content.
  2. Don't rely on color alone.
  3. Properly use markup and style sheets.
  4. Clarify natural language usage.
  5. Create tables that transform gracefully.
  6. Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully.
  7. Ensure user control of time-sensitive content changes.
  8. Ensure direct accessibility of embedded user interfaces.
  9. Design for device-independence.
  10. Use interim solutions.
  11. Use W3C technologies and guidelines.
  12. Provide context and orientation information.
  13. Provide clear navigation mechanisms.
  14. Ensure that documents are clear and simple.

Understanding the standards and applying them can seem daunting, at first. But most of the standards are simply best practices for all users.

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