Section 508: Accessibility Resources – Program Overview

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Two visually-impaired people: one walking with a cane, and one walking with a seeing-eye dog.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a  federal government code that requires organizations that receive federal funds to have websites, web apps and electronic documents that are accessible to people with disabilities.

Accessibility can be a complex topic. The resources below have been valuable for ABAG/MTC staff, and may help on your organization’s path to Section 508 compliance.

Digital.gov

The Introduction to Accessibility web page provides an excellent overview.

Section508.gov

Section508.gov is a definitive resource that includes a wealth of free training materials, including online training courses, video training, Section 508 tools, and more.

WebAim.org

Has free tools and articles, including a comprehensive Introduction to Web Accessibility. The site also offers paid training and certifications.

“Read Out Loud” Software

One good way to tell if web documents have been tagged properly for assistive software is to use programs that read your document out loud. Some popular programs include:

Built-In Accessibility Checkers

Many commonly-used business programs (Microsoft, Adobe, etc.) have built-in “accessibility checkers.” These “checkers” are imperfect, but can help you have  a better understanding of accessibility compliance. Look under “Tools” for “Check Accessibility” or “Accessibility Check” to be guided through prompts that can help fix some accessibility errors.

Color Contrast Checkers

High color contrast is very important for users with low vision and certain visual disabilities. To ensure that you are using color combinations that offer high enough contrast, use one of the free checkers available:

Alternative Text

Alternative text, or “alt text,” is what some assistive technology will use to “read” graphic elements. Without good alt text, an image or chart might be useless or invisible to someone using a screen reader or other assistive technology. These tools offer good guidance for writing better alternative text.