When creating a new website or updating an existing one, it is important to ensure that it is accessible to all. Website compliance standards aim to make information, both print and digital, accessible to people with disabilities.
When reviewing website compliance standards, there are three main standards that will likely be mentioned: 508, ADA and WCAG. Each accessibility standard is designed to cover specific groups of people and apply to different types of businesses. The requirements for meeting each of these standards also vary, as well as the penalties for non-compliance.
The main purpose of accessibility standards like Section 508, ADA and WCAG are to encourage the development of websites, custom software solutions and applications that meet the needs of all users.
What Is Section 508 Compliance?
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act states that federal agencies must develop, use, procure and maintain information and communication technology (ICT) that is accessible to individuals with disabilities. This is a requirement whether or not the federal agency works directly for the federal government.
ICT refers to any system or equipment that is used to create, duplicate, convert or access data. Examples include smartphones, mobile devices, internet websites, televisions, DVD players, PDF documents, online training, technical support call centers, software, teleconferencing, user guides, operating systems and computers.
Meeting Section 508 Compliance Standards
There are several ways that a business can make their website 508-compliant. First, it can use WCAG to build a compliant website in-house. A more effective option involves hiring a custom software development company to create a website that is 508-compliant. Organizations that receive federal funding are exempt from 508 compliance.
What Is ADA Compliance?
In September 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The standards under this act require that all electric and information technology be accessible to individuals with disabilities. This accessibility standard differs from Section 508 and applies to all information technology, including computer software, hardware and documentation.
The ADA standards apply to all public and commercial entities that offer “places of public accommodation”, including the internet. Those impacted by this law include local governments, state governments, businesses and nonprofits in the private and public sector. Failure to meet compliance can result in a fine of between $55,000 and $75,000 for first-time violations and $150,000 for repeat offenders. If federally funded, any funding could be revoked for non-compliance.
Meeting ADA Compliance Standards
To make a website ADA compliant, businesses must follow certain guidelines when developing a website. All users must have the ability to perceive information that appears on the site, including text, video and images. If a user is unable to see text or listen to a website’s audio, an alternative must be offered to accommodate these users.
An ADA-compliant website must also be operable. Users must have the capabilities to navigate the website and all of its features; this includes the ability to use the main navigation and any available site tools. Website content must be understandable, including the site’s text, video, images and tools.
What Is WCAG?
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) cover a variety of recommendations designed to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities, including those with low vision, blindness, hearing loss, deafness, cognitive limitations, learning disabilities, speech disabilities, limited movement, photosensitivity or any combination of these conditions.
Meeting WCAG Compliance Standards
WCAG serves as a reference for 508 and ADA website compliance. The standard provides businesses with an actionable resource for creating a website that is accessible by everyone. Under WCAG, there are three main tiers. Level A refers to a website that only some users can access. Level AA refers to a website that almost all users can access, and Level AAA refers to a website that all users can access.
WCAG does not operate as a regulatory body or law; therefore, businesses do not need to create a compliance plan for WCAG. However, they should use WCAG as a checklist or guide when striving towards Section 508 and ADA compliance. Guidelines state that accessible websites should be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. Working with an experienced website developer in the creation of a website can help ensure accessibility compliance and help businesses avoid hefty penalties.
Speak To An Experienced Custom Software Developer
Most businesses in the United States must comply with accessibility standards. Even if a website was already created to comply with these standards, it is important to remember that amendments are occasionally made to these standards and businesses must continually review new and updated standards to maintain compliance.
Before speaking with a developer, consider which guidelines must be met based on the type of business, the conformance level that the business would like to meet and if there are any additional special accessibility requirements that the business should have. To learn more about meeting 508, ADA or WCAG compliance or for assistance with this process, reach out to the custom software experts at Orases by calling 301.756.5527 or by requesting a consultation online.