508 Compliance: Making your Website Accessible to All Users

Published on
October 29, 2014
a laptop on top of a table with a hand holding a phone behind it


Let’s face it, the more visitors to your website; the more potential you have to sell products and/or services to new customers, hopefully retaining them for the long haul.

With more consumers shopping online these days, having a viable website that is easily accessible and meets search engine ranking guidelines is critical. But there is much more than just keeping the search engines happy.

Do you know your stuff when it comes to 508 Compliance? If not, take a few minutes to get up to speed on this important matter.


As far as 508 Compliance goes, this covers more than a dozen accessibility mandates to which websites must comply with.

Before you begin to panic that your business site may not be in compliance with a few or many of these rules, note that Section 508 is a manageable set of accessibility requirements that will not entail significant alterations to how your web pages are currently designed.

For example, federal rules mandate that government web sites must be accessible for disabled individuals, though there can be some areas of confusion in these matters. Section 508 is in place to point out definitively what the term accessible means.


• The standards note the forms of technology covered and put forth provisions that provide a minimum level of accessibility;

• Among the electronic and information technologies covered include computers, software, networks, peripherals and other forms of electronic office equipment;

• Businesses that agree to produce reports for a Federal agency under a contract do not have to procure accessible computers and word processing software even in the event they were used exclusively for the contract. That said compliance is necessary if such products go on to become the property of the Federal agency as contract deliverables or should the Federal agency have bought the items to be used by the contractor as a segment of the project. In the event a Federal agency agrees to a contract with a business to develop its website, the standards do apply to the new website for the agency but not for the company’s own website;

• Criteria for both web-based technology and data are centered on access guidelines put together by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium. A large number of these provisions ensure access for individuals with vision impairments who depend on a number of assistive products to access computer-based information, such as screen readers, which translate what's on a computer screen into automated audible output, and refreshable Braille displays. Certain conventions, such as verbal tags or identification of graphics and format devices, like frames, are needed to ensure that these devices can "read" them for the user in a sensible way. The standards do not prohibit the use of web site graphics or animation. Instead, the standards aim to ensure that such data is also offered in an accessible format. Typically, this means use of text labels or descriptors for graphics and certain format elements. (HTML code already provides an "Alt Text" tag for graphics which can serve as a verbal descriptor for graphics). This section also addresses the usability of multimedia presentations, image maps, style sheets, scripting languages, applets and plug-ins, and electronic forms.

As you can tell, there are a number of priorities involving 508 Compliance that your business should read up on.

With more and more consumers turning to online shopping and browsing business sites in general for information to their questions, making sure your site is compliant should never be taken for granted.

If you would like more information on coding your website for 508 Compliance, please contact us today at 858.677.9931 or use our website consultation contact form.

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