What is 508 Compliance?
Section 508 is responsible for setting accessibility standards for equal access of digital information for federal agencies. Though in recent years, hundreds of websites have been served class action lawsuits on the basis of websites being public accommodations. To be 508 compliant, your website or digital product has to be accessible according to the list of 508 standards.
Legality plays an important part in ensuring you comply with 508 standards, but it is also a way to ensure you can connect with users of any background regardless of impairment. Being able to access your brand is a big step in strengthening your user base.
Automated 508 Compliance Testing Tools
Considering the importance of 508 compliance, it’s no surprise that multiple automated tools have sprung up to test your content for accessibility. These 508 compliance testing tools have the benefit of being fast and marking obvious errors, but do not have the coding capacity to fully test your product.
Having a specialist manually test your website can ensure you are 508 compliant.
The Benefits of a Web Accessibility Specialist Testing Your 508 Compliance
Unlike 508 compliance testing tools, a web accessibility specialist is actually versed in everything Section 508 entails. A tool can be programmed to search for “errors,” but this can be unreliable. A tool has set responses for every situation it encounters while a specialist is capable of considering multiple solutions to the same situation.
The largest advantage web accessibility specialists have over 508 compliance testing tools is their ability to actually understand the content being checked. A tool can tell you whether a certain feature is present or not, but it cannot tell you the effectiveness of the feature.
An image could have an alternate text description which satisfies the tool, but you have no idea if the content is relevant or correct. The tool believes you have satisfied a 508 requirement when in actuality the alternate text does not fulfill its purpose.
Likewise, a tool cannot tell you if linked information is also 508 compliant. If you have a link in your content that leads to an outside source, then that source must also be 508 compliant in order to meet the requirement. A specialist can pursue this information while the tool cannot.
508 compliance testing tools are also insufficient in regards to accessing visual accessibility. While the tool may be able to identify colors that could be problematic for viewers with impaired vision, it simply cannot stand up to the human eye. A web accessibility specialist can correctly select colors and sizes that provide the most accessibility, such as having titles underlined red on hover.
Ensuring Your Website Meets 508 Standards
Using 508 compliance testing tools is a good start to increasing your website’s accessibility. A tool can quickly analyze what it’s given and find obvious errors.
But ultimately, a web accessibility specialist is needed to verify the tool’s verdict. Specialists have the flexibility and expert knowledge required to fully satisfy Section 508. 508 compliance testing tools should be used is tandem to manual testing to ensure full section 508 compliance. There is no substitute for human effort and experience.
Interested in making sure your website is fully ADA compliant? Speak to one of our web accessibility experts today.