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What Is ADA/Section 508 Compliance?

ADA and section 508 compliance have been huge topics over the last 6-12 months in higher education. If you haven’t heard of it, compliance refers to making sure that your website is accessible to people with disabilities.

How Does It Apply to You?

By not having a compliant website (or by not displaying a concerted effort to make your site compliant), you could be making yourself vulnerable to a lawsuit, as there are several laws that prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

Here’s a New York Times article from late 2017 that details some of these lawsuits.

Where to Start?

Please note that this list isn’t exhaustive. It’s intended to help you become aware of website compliance guidelines and measure how much work you need to do in order to get your site into compliance.

1. Alt Attributes

  • Alt attributes are visible only in the HTML coding
  • They are an additional HTML attribute for an image that allows you to describe what the image is, which aids the visually impaired
  • If you right-click an image (in Firefox) and then select “Inspect Element,” you’ll see the following:

 

ADA Compliance ALT tag

 

Note the alt=”Sixth City Marketing Staff” in the blue highlighted code

  • One of the quickest ways to learn if your site isn’t compliant is to use a scanner to see if your site doesn’t have alt attributes on images

2. Heading Elements

  • Heading elements are another HTML markup element within a webpage
  • They are often used for formatting but screen readers for the visually impaired rely on them to help navigate a page by presenting a list of all the headings on a page and skipping to the desired one (via Yale.edu)
  • They are used within the code to organize the importance of content on a webpage
  • The <h1> tag has the most importance, while <h6> tags have the least importance
  • It’s recommended that you don’t skip headers (e.g., an <h1> should only be followed by an <h2>, not an <h3>) as it can be confusing to these screen readers (via W3C.org)
  • If you right-click a heading (in Firefox) and then select “Inspect Element,” you’ll see the following:

Photo of inspected H1 Tag

You can learn more about heading elements from the W3C website.

3. Keyboard Accessibility

  • People with motor disabilities will often use the keyboard, or a modified version of the keyboard, instead of a mouse to navigate a webpage
  • For a look at some common keyboard controls, check the accessibility help page from the Social Security site
  • During this method, users typically use the [tab] and arrow keys to navigate through elements on a page
  • The order in which items are focused is important and it should match the visual order of the page navigation and content.

Sources: https://webaim.org/techniques/keyboard/ & https://webaccess.berkeley.edu/resources/tips/web-accessibility

4. Link Text Within the Copy on a Page

  • Instead of using generic text such as “click here” or “read more” to link to another page or website, you should use more specific text to describe where you are sending the visitor
  • Screen readers allow the visitor to scan the page, but they do not commonly read the link
  • When you use specific text that pertains to the subject of the external link, it is easier for the user to determine if they want or need to visit the site

Doing ongoing audits on your website and documenting the adjustments/changes can help in keeping your website compliant. If you have additional questions about compliance and your website, feel free to connect with us via our contact form or call us at 440-821-1425.