Section 508 as an Aid to Web Developers
The law as constituted in Section 508(a)(1)(A)(ii), which states that electronic and information technology be available to:
individuals with disabilities who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal department or agency to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data by such members of the public who are not individuals with disabilities.
TCSG web development practices should also be aware of Section 508(a)(2)(B):
REVIEW AND AMENDMENT. – The Access Board (Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board – https://www.access-board.gov) shall periodically review and, as appropriate, amend the standards required under changes subparagraph (A) to reflect technological advances or changes in electronic and information technology. Requiring the Access Board to review and amend standards introduces the possibility of new and different standards in the future.
Web Content Guidelines and Accessible Standards
The following is a set of guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Access Initiative (WAI). These Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are prioritized on a scale from 1 to 3, with priority 1 being a set of guidelines which must be followed or “one or more groups will find it impossible to access information in the site.”
WCAG Priority 1 guidelines are followed to the best of the knowledgeable ability of TCSG, and are noted in the following descriptions.
1194.22 Web based intranet and Internet information and applications (taken directly from the Section 508 Requirement and Standards Quick Reference Guide)
These technical requirements apply to purchased or contracted websites, including the information content as well as any associated applications and plug-ins. These requirements also apply to web-based interfaces to other E&IT products or systems, such as web-based interfaces to digital copiers or telecommunications devices (wired, analog and digital wireless, and Internet).
Web based information is content provided via Web pages. A Web based application is any application embedded in a Web page that is necessary to fully deliver the content of the page to the user.
Web based applications are also any aspect of a Web page with which the user must interact in order to operate the given function of a Web page. For example, a streaming audio player delivers the content of a page to the user and, therefore, must be accessible to the user.
Most Web interoperability issues deal with the design of Web pages and how effectively they work with assistive technology (such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, Braille readers, alternate input devices). Assistive technology cannot be employed effectively to convey equivalent information to a user with disabilities if these provisions are not met.
Assistive technology products interact with Web-based applications in a variety of ways, depending in great part on the operating system and the language in which the Web-based application is written. For example,
- In the Microsoft Windows environment, some Web-based applications support Microsoft Active Accessibility (http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/) assistive technology products.
- Some Web-based applications written in Java are compatible with the Java Access Bridge (http://java.sun.com/products/accessbridge/) for Windows. Assistive technology also using the Java Access Bridge can link to Windows applications.
- If the Web-based application is, in fact, a set of markup content that is coded following accessible markup language (http://www.w3.org/TR/xag.html), assistive technology products will be able to deliver the information to their users.
- Some Web-based applications were designed specifically to interact with a single assistive technology product. These applications will require that the specific assistive technology product be present to be accessible.
- Some Web-based applications provide text-only versions of their products. These are most commonly used in the Linux environment, where the assistive technology products take information from text-based streams and organize the data in a manner that intends to fill the needs of their users.
- If no other methods are available to assistive technology products, they must fall back to rendering the information directly from the screen.
1194.22 (a) A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via “alt”, “longdesc”, or in element content).
1194.22 (b) Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.
1194.22 (c) Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup.
1194.22 (d) Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.
1194.22 (e) Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server-side image map.
1194.22 (f) Client-side image maps shall be provided instead of server-side image maps except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape.
1194.22 (g) Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables.
1194.22 (h) Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers.
1194.22 (i) Frames shall be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation.
1194.22 (j) Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.
1194.22 (k) A text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be provided to make a web site comply with the provisions of this part, when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. The content of the text-only page shall be updated whenever the primary page changes.
1194.22 (l) When pages utilize scripting languages to display content, or to create interface elements, the information provided by the script shall be identified with functional text that can be read by assistive technology.
1194.22 (m) When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with ??1194.21(a) through (l).
1194.22 (n) When electronic forms are designed to be completed on-line, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.
1194.22 (o) A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.
1194.22 (p) When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate more time is required.
WCAG 2.0 Standards
On January 18, 2017, the U.S. Access Board published a final rule updating accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act. The law adopts by reference the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A and Level AA success criteria for all ICT. Staff should refer to the official W3C WCAG 2.0 website as the definitive source for accessibility compliance questions. The site provides information about the WCAG 2.0 principles, guidelines and success criteria, as well as detailed explanations of How to Meet WCAG 2.0 Requirements. TCSG and its colleges should ensure that their websites and ICT conform to Level AA criteria.
- Section 508 Home Page. There are several Section 508 “homepages”; however, this one from the Department of Justice includes a number of other interesting and related links.
- The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (The Access Board) Section 508 Final Rule. The standards as related to Web-based information are added as part 1194.22 to Chapter XI of title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
- Section 508 Facts: Understanding Section 508 and the Access Board’s Standards. A specific statement regarding retrofitting is included in this guide.
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. A set of guidelines explaining how to make Web content accessible to those with disabilities. Related information is available at the website for the WWW Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative.