What is 508 Testing and How Can it Save My Franchise?

We all know that a website is a major asset to any organization, private or public. But did you know your website could also be a major legal liability?

New requirements by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) require all websites to meet certain accessibility standards, like those outlined in Section 508. If your site doesn’t comply, you could be in big trouble.

Today’s post explains exactly what Section 508 demands, as well as how 508 testing can potentially save your franchise!

What is Section 508 Compliance?

Section 508 Compliance is shorthand for a law that specifically requires federal government web assets to be safe and accessible for individuals with disabilities.

The Reauthorized Rehabilitation Act of 1998 was the first to include Section 508, which requires US Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) usable by people with disabilities.

Now websites, microsites, web pages, apps, and any other internet-based tool and service you can think of must be 508 compliant.

In regards to what makes a web asset compliant, the summed up answer is “accessibility.” To detail every point of our 300+ item checklist would be beyond the scope of this article; besides, each web asset must be evaluated individually. But to give you an idea, Section 508 testing and remediation usually focuses on:

  • Adding textual descriptions, such as “alt text,” “longdesc,” and transcription, to all images, videos, image functions, complex graphics (but not decorative graphics), and audio content;
  • Synchronizing captions on video files and live audio broadcasts;
  • Redesigning content and layouts whose meaning relies on color;
  • Changing page design to avoid screen flicker with frequencies greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz;
  • Adding options for users to skip repetitive navigation links;
  • Ensuring all content is compatible with assistive technologies.

What are the Consequences of Non-Compliance?

Nearly 20% of all people are affected by disabilities, according to reports by the Census Bureau. That means web assets that do not comply with Section 508 are effectively barring 1 in 5 users from entry.

Having a web asset that excludes 20% of your potential users is bad enough before you consider how that inaccessibility mischaracterizes your business. Believe it or not, non-compliance is a form of discrimination, not unlike prohibiting wheelchair users from entering your store. It can offend people you had no intention of hurting and really damage your brand.

Further, franchise owners in violation of Section 508 are now being targeted with lawsuits that can result in massive fines.

Does Section 508 Affect Me?

Don’t assume you’re off the hook just because your franchise isn’t part of the federal government.

Though Section 508 is intended to regulate federal web assets, certain business owners and franchisors will be affected. Specifically, any company that does business with a federal agency will be held accountable to these standards.

How Do I Make Sure My Web Asset Complies with Section 508?

To be compliant, the web asset must undergo extensive 508 testing that requires certain software, such as the Accessibility Requirements Tools (ART), along with a trained eye.

Once the problems are found, changes may need to be made to your web architecture, page design, and overall presentation of content. Some document remediation may be required, wherein digital publications are converted into resources that are accessible to individuals with visual and auditory disabilities. For example, videos will need to be subtitled and transcribed to be accessible to everyone. HTML5 will be necessary in order for your site to function with assistive technologies.

For full details on what’s needed, contact us about our Section 508 testing and compliance checklist.

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