As of January, 2018, all technology, including websites, that falls under Section 508 standards is required to meet accessibility standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. This ruling updates the information and communication technology (ICT) requirements to further accessibility, facilitate compliance, and make the document easier to use.
One of the major changes includes the requirement to:
"incorporate the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 by reference and applying Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements to websites" (click here to read full source)
The WCAG 2.0 guidelines are broken down into four primary principles:
Under each principle listed above, there are specific goals a website should work toward. Under each section, there is now specific criteria that can be tested. Those criteria are graded A, AA, or AAA. In short, this grade shows how accessible a website is. Where AAA is the highest.
Ok, but what does this mean for my site?
"Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive."
This principle provides recommendations for how the website's content should be presented so that all users can interact with it and clearly understand it.
A Few Examples of perceivable accessibility:
- Providing captions for any video content on your site
- Including alternate text (alt tags) for images
- Including sub-titles for video content.
- Making sure that all written text and graphics have enough color contrast to be easily seen.
- Providing an alternative option for those pesky CAPTCHA form confirmations.
"User interface components and navigation must be operable."
This principle boils down to the basic question "Can everyone easily navigate my site?" Making sure the site is operable includes ensuring it can be navigated using a keyboard and that all users have enough time to take in and interact with all the site’s features.
Using a keyboard to navigate is essential to users that do not use a mouse. To find out how well the site can be navigated without a mouse: open it up, click somewhere on the site, then use your keyboard's Tab key to navigate from link to link. You should see a nice, clear highlight color as you tab through the links, and no content should be unable to be accessed with the tab key.
To ensure that the link highlights when users tab through the website, make sure the 'hover color' is significantly different from the 'link color'.
To ensure users are able to read all the content on the site, make sure there is significant contrast between all text and background colors, and that users can pause any scrolling or auto-updating text.
"Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable."
To meet this criteria, simply make sure all actions on the site have good, clear explanations and that users have the option to correct any mistakes. You can accomplish this by checking things like:
- Do all form fields have visible labels instead of relying on placeholders?
- Do paginated forms have a 'back' button?
- Do payment forms have the option to confirm any financial transactions?
- Do all links have a clear action? IE: A button that reads 'click here' is not a very clear description of what happens when the user clicks, while 'click here to read about our services' is a lot more descriptive.
"Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies."
This principal is all about making sure the code used to display your site is able to be read and understood by current assistive technologies.
A few things that should be implemented are:
- 'start' and 'end' tags in the HTML.
- No duplicate elements that could confuse a screen reader
- Properly defined names and roles that can be determined programmatically by assistive technologies.
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