Americans are more reliant than ever on the Internet as their primary source of critical information and communication. When disaster strikes, news happens or inclement weather is on the horizon, the quickest access to the most information is just a mouse click (or finger tap) away. Continue reading after the break ...
Thanks to a 1998 amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, millions of Americans with disabilities will always have equal access to digital information when they need it most. Section 508 mandates that electronic and information technology (IT) systems, including websites, developed, procured, maintained or used by the federal government, must be accessible to Americans with disabilities.
“The way we always approach 508 compliance is to keep it in mind from the beginning of design through to implementation -- not an afterthought,” explains Jeff Taggart, a front-end developer at ICF Ironworks. “If you’re 95% 508 compliant before you even test for it, it makes it easy for everyone. You should be able to rip out the style sheet and still be able to use the site.”
It must be easy for Americans with disabilities to complete the task at hand, whether they’re using screen readers or keyboard-only navigation. However, sometimes even the latest technologies we employ to build websites don’t anticipate the unique needs of disabled citizens.
Taggart provided such an example of a website development tool falling short of 508 accessibility standards and how his team remedied a potential inconvenience to disabled web users:
jQuery is popular because it is very well tested to be cross browser compliant, and in most cases speeds development time. However, we found that the otherwise rock solid plug-in was lacking for non-sighted users when it comes to sorting table columns.
The plug-in allows you to click on the column header in order to sort the column as ascending or descending, but the plug-in uses background images in the column header to indicate the current direction the column is sorted in. Since background images don’t have any 'alt' text or other meta information for a screen reader to pick up, it was impossible for a screen reader to tell the user how the column was sorted.
We modified the plug-in to add a 'title' attribute to the column header so the screen reader could indicate the current sort direction.
Our team’s vigilant efforts and innovative approach to ensuring 508 compliance has never been stronger: Earlier this year Ironworks joined forces with ICF International. Together, we agree that universal design and adherence to coding standards are the best means of ensuring access to the broadest possible audience, and our design and evaluation staff work together with our programmers to achieve those goals.
We are trusted by federal clients as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to ensure that their websites and applications meet Section 508 compliance requirements. Learn how our commitment to Section 508 and the variety of methodologies we utilize can ensure the technology systems your organization employs conform to federal, state, and agency requirements.