The US legislation regarding nondiscrimination that is referred to as “Section 508” requires that electronic and information technology that is developed by or purchased by the Federal Agencies be accessible by people with disabilities. It is an amendment to the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
According to the Section 508 technical standards, a web site has to satisfy sixteen specific items for web accessibility. These are specific things that can be done during web site development to ensure that a person who is mobility impaired or blind, for example, can use your site.
508 standards have drawn on the work of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that has crafted a set of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG guidelines are grouped by priority and are very similar to those in the final Section 508 rule.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which became law in 1990 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA generally requires employers, state and local governments and places of public accommodation to offer reasonable services or tools to ensure that people are not discriminated against on the basis of disability.
On eFront we have worked with WCAG-2 guidelines that are web-specific and (mostly) cover Section 508 and ADA.
Note that there are no related certifications for websites and services since there is no way to make a site 100% compatible with WCAG-2 without restricting it too much. We can, however, reach a level of conformance.
Here are the high-level items on WCAG-2:
- Ordered List ItemText Alternatives: Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
- Time-based Media: Provide alternatives for time-based media.
- Adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
- Distinguishable: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
- Keyboard Accessible: Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
- Enough Time: Provide users enough time to read and use the content.
- Seizures: Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
- Navigable: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
- Readable: Make text content readable and understandable.
- Predictable: Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
- Input Assistance: Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
- Compatible: Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.
There are 3 elements that play a role on whether a web platform can meet those requirements:
- The LMS software. eFront has taken into its design the above requirements and makes sure that it meets them as good as possible. For example, we offer alternatives for all images (alt tags), we make no-use of iframes / Java or Flash and we do not use strictly colors to convey information. We also offer a consistent navigation to make the system predictable.
- The browser. A modern browser is essential to make a system WCAIG 2.0 compatible. For example, a browser offers tools to navigate a page with the keyboard, ways to increase/decrease the font-size and help users enter data into forms.
- The content. Many of the accessibility requirements reside on the content. As an example, the content must be offered in alternative ways to cover different disabilities and it also needs to be adaptable.