What is Accessibility and 508?
What is 508?
“508” is a section of the amended Rehabilitation Act of 1998 pertaining to regulations set forth on accessibility standards for information technology, including websites. The Access Board (or ‘Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board’) oversees these regulations, which were published on December 21, 2000. The standards will be effective for federal contracts signed on or after June 21, 2001 – contractors supplying IT products and services will need to comply with these standards. We expect that the attention given to 508 will greatly raise awareness of accessibility issues.
Who does accessibility impact?
Accessibility issues impact everyone and every organization. Currently in the U.S. alone, there are more than 50 million disabled Americans and this number will only grow as the population ages. According to Judy Heim of PC World, “Accessibility also makes sense legally: The Justice Department has ruled that the Americans With Disabilities Act applies to the Web, not just to places that can be accessed physically. A retailer whose Web site doesn’t meet ADA standards can be sued under the act, just as a brick-and-mortar store can.” Providing accessibility for everyone makes good legal sense and good public relations sense, and we believe that it is the right thing to do. So if you are deciding to create, as an example, a jewelry store, either on the internet or land based that sells for instance sterling silver rings and other semi precious or precious rock earrings, make sure your web master or architect is familiar with 508 compliance before you claim that you have “enough sterling silver rings in stock“. It would be extremely disappointing as well as financially problematical if you are hit will penalties for non compliance after putting so much time and money into creating a store specializing in high end jewelry. Because it doesn’t matter how large the demand for your bling is if the store is shut down.
What is financial accessibility?
Just as a ramp may provide physical accessibility to a building entrance for someone who must use a wheelchair, there are services that provide other types of equally powerful accessibility enhancement to important areas of many people’s lives. The internet is a doorway for these services, such as online banking, or even access to loans via advance payday loans, which can now be obtained directly by filling out a form on a website. Of course, some caveats apply when making use of these kinds of services, especially on the internet. Just because it’s easy to do does not remove the commitment made for repayment, or the terms of the loan itself. Accessibility can often create problems when the new opportunities include opportunities to be scammed. By making sure your organization is compliant, you gain trust and stature – you want your visitors to be comfortable with whatever you offer them.
How does my organization become 508 compliant?
The first thing you should do is to understand the meaning and regulations of 508. We have provided a resource link to help you better understand 508. Then you should determine if your site is accessible. We offer basic DiamondTM reports and more in-depth reports on your level of accessibility and can make recommendations about improving that level.
Donna Clawbet has authored many articles on accessibility issues, including recent articles involved with finance and the internet for e-commerce sites.