A Look behind the Scenes – Part II: The Website Accessibility Information Gap
A Look behind the Scenes – Part II: The Website Accessibility Information Gap

Categories: Disability.Blog News, Technology

A wooden directional sign at crossroads.

By Marc Seguin, System Analyst, Disability.gov

This is the second post in a multi-part series written by the Disability.gov team to help others learn about the importance of website accessibility and the best practices that are used on Disability.gov. For more information on the Section 508 standards and tools, please visit http://section508.gov/. You can also read Part I of the series.

Are you a Section 508 coordinator, federal Web content manager or a member of the disability community who has questions about Web accessibility?

Many people within the accessibility community would like specific information on how to ensure their website is compliant. You may be thinking that there are limited examples to learn from, not enough information is shared or there are few documented detailed processes about how to do it.

The message that we would like to spread is that those responsible for making websites accessible are not helpless to fix the sites they oversee and the accessibility problems within them. If you lack the knowledge about how to test for accessibility and correct it, seek out help by contacting your fellow Section 508 Coordinators.

If you are not getting the help that you need, then ask those resources for more information or seek out the information in other ways. For example, you can sign up for newsletters, attend accessibility conferences, join LinkedIn or Facebook groups and follow users on Twitter who are sharing information about accessibility every day.

Sadly, there is no magic bullet or automated tool that can make a website accessible. Like most things that are worth it, making a website accessible takes hard work. When it comes to documenting the best practices for making and keeping a website accessible, there really isn’t any need to reinvent the wheel.

Is there really a lack of informational resources available on how to make a website Section 508 compliant? If you perform a Google search using the search term, “how to be section 508 compliant,” you will receive more than 4.5 million results. Not every search result is going to be useful, but there are many helpful resources from Section508.gov, the U.S. Access Board, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs that you can learn from.

We are not here to lecture others about accessibility. Instead, we have worked to set ourselves as an example and role model of what a federal website with a focus on Web accessibility can be. We have helped multiple agencies with reviews and provided technical solutions for accessibility issues. We have done our best to educate agency representatives about the parts of Section 508 that they are unfamiliar with and provide techniques, resources and solutions that they can use. One of the lead developers on the Disability.gov team has provided Section 508 and accessibility training to Web developers within the different agencies at the Department of Labor. However, educating others about how to meet Section 508 is not our primary mission.

With that said, typically, the reasons we find that websites are not accessible are:

  • A lack of understanding as to why designing for accessibility is important.
  • A lack of funds to fix existing accessibility problems.
  • A lack of human resources dedicated to accessibility.
  • And a lack of people with the knowledge base about accessibility problems and solutions.

The biggest problem isn’t a lack of information. Unfortunately, there are just not enough educated people with the money and resources behind them to fix the existing accessibility problems. If you don’t know what is required in Section 508 §1194.22, visit other websites who have done great jobs on describing the requirements and how to meet them.

First, familiarize yourself with Section 508 and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. If you still have questions, visit WebAIM. If you’d like to see a good example of the steps used to ensure accessibility on a federal website, check out the Recovery.gov case study.

But why stop or limit yourself to just these resources? Go out and find your own.

To be continued….

Stay tuned for A Look behind the Scenes – Part III: Website Accessibility Isn’t an Exact Science

14 Responses to A Look behind the Scenes – Part II: The Website Accessibility Information Gap

  1. Herry F. says:

    Please help me. I’m going totally blind and need fast help. Where do I go for help? I’m only 51 yrs old and want to see my sons and my new grandson. Can I get disability? How?

  2. Herry F. says:

    I am unemployed, have no money. I have very service gloucome and am going blind by the minute and the dr. said it will only get worse. I don’t know where to go for help. My mother is a widow and bearly survives on here Social Sec. check. Please where do I get help?

  3. Sam Joehl says:

    Check out http://www.webaccessibility.com. It provides access to the public version of our best practice database. We have spent 8 years building it out and it contains hundreds of best practices for many technology platforms including HTML; Javascript; CSS; Windows .Net and MFC applications; Silverlight; Adobe PDF, Livecycle, and Flash/Flex; Java; Delphi; multimedia; hardware; Microsoft Office and signage. Visitors can also test their websites and take training courses on accessibility implementation for various platforms.

  4. Ryner M. says:

    Fantastic website. Plenty of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends and additionally sharing in delicious. And obviously, thank you for your effort!

  5. Mikaela says:

    Wowza, problem solved like it never happened.

  6. John Anthony C. says:

    Please help me John Anthony C., Lewiston, Idaho figure out the PASS and ticket to work. Age 51 with po order from 1994 to 2012 disabled.

  7. Pam C. says:

    Can State Agencies contact the Federal Agency contact person to help assist with website accessibility? Also, are there vendors out there you would recommend to hire to make websites accesssible?

    • Disability.Blog Team says:

      Hi Pam,

      State agencies are welcome to use any of the resources on section508.gov. You can also find a list of 508 agency coordinators at http://www.section508.gov/index.cfm?fuseAction=coordlistfullsite. Please understand the primary responsibility of 508 coordinators is ensuring the accessibility of the website and informational materials for their particular agencies. You may also wish to visit the Section 508 blog at http://buyaccessible.net/blog/ and post comments and questions on that site as well.

      In addition, you can find further information on 508 compliance at http://www.section508.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=answers.

      Because vendors vary so much, you may wish to do a Web search for accessibility specialists in your area, or contact any IT firms you are considering using to see if they have accessibility specialists on staff.

  8. G F Mueden says:

    Much too vague, like looking at the universe through a keyhole. Give a few specific resources. To go to WAI is too vague. Google gives too much. If you can’t select the most important, it would be better for you to stop, build a significant list, and then come back and present it. We all know those things are out there somewhere, but we need to be told exactly where and which ones are most important.

    • BJ Duncan says:

      The link came up as broken when I tried “section 508 coordinators.” Agree with G.F. Mueden 100%, way too late in the game to be this “universal.”

      • Disability.Blog Team says:

        Hi BJ,

        The link to 508 coordinators appears to be working fine now in both IE and Firefox browsers. The direct link is http://section508.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=coordlist. It’s possible when you tried the link that section508.gov (which is the site that hosts this information) was experiencing some technical issues at that time.

        Thank you!

    • Disability.Blog Team says:

      Hi GF,

      Please check back for the final two posts in this series, which will provide more detailed information about making websites accessible. These will be posted in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

      Also, please consider that people have varying levels of knowledge when it comes to accessibility. What you may consider to be obvious or known, others who may be new to the accessibility field may find helpful. Our goal at Disability.Blog is to provide information and resources for people with a wide range of experience and knowledge.

      Also, when it comes to accessibility, different things will work for different sites. For many accessibility related issues, there isn’t necessarily a “right” or a “wrong” way to implement changes to make a site accessible, but a matter of what will work best for a particular site.

      Many thanks.