A significant portion of people around the world use assistive technology to aid sensory, motor or cognitive disabilities, but improperly designed website elements render these tools nearly useless. Every aspect from navigation to website text to images to downloadable documents should be available to those who use assistive technology. Section 508 compliance is an involved process with no easy fixes. However, there are some initial, cost-effective steps you can take on your way to becoming compliant.
Simplify Your Navigation
Cluttered, dense navigation can make it quite difficult for a person with motor or vision disabilities to navigate your website. Allow some breathing room between items to make it easier to click on the desired item.
Add Alt Text, Tags and Other Labels
Adding captions to video and ALT text to informative images is simple and inexpensive. It’s only slightly more costly to add transcription for any video offered. Tagging and labeling objects and edit fields is often overlooked, but simple to correct.
“When an individual using a screen reader browses a site, all objects are identified specifically by the designer, rather than simply having the screen reader announce the object itself,” says Brad Hodges, an access technology consultant to business and industry, who uses assistive technology on a daily basis.
JAVA for Everyone? No.
JAVA is not supported by many assistive technologies, rendering the information presented in it unusable. Be aware that some “must-have” technologies are poorly supported, if at all.
Test Your Website in Different Browsers
Web pages can behave differently when viewed in different browsers.
“Testing with screen access is critically important to ensuring that all pages perform similarly with all browsers,” says Hodges.
Inexpensive or free testing tools can reveal pervasive issues; Hodges recommends testing with a screen reader and screen magnification. Free screen readers include System Access 2 Go and NVDA for Windows and VoiceOver for OS10 (press Command F5 on any OSX machine).
More Information on Accessibility Guidelines and Requirements
By Shawna McAlearney