Section 508 is an amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that is a federal law mandating that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities. If technology can be used as effectively by people with disabilities as by those without, it is considered accessible.
Although Section 508 only applies to the federal government, it has guided the development of technologies and web services that meet accessibility standards. The United States Department of Education now requires states funded by the Assistive Technology Act State Grant program to comply with Section 508.
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) has determined that Section 508 and its regulations apply to USG institutions, and as such the policy of UGA is as follows:
“The University of Georgia (“UGA”) commits to ensuring equal access to information and communication technology (“ICT”) by all, including those with disabilities in all its educational and administrative services, programs and activities in compliance with federal law. Equal access is met when individuals with disabilities are able to independently acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services in an equally effective and integrated manner as individuals without disabilities, with substantially equivalent ease of use, unless doing so creates an undue burden on the University. ICT refers to information technology and other equipment, systems, technologies, or processes, for which the principal function is the creation, manipulation, storage, display, receipt, or transmission of electronic data and information, as well as any associated content. This policy statement is in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-336) (“ADA”), ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (Pub. L. 110-325) (“ADAAA”), and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.”
The CAES Office of Information Technology recommends the following guidelines for keeping web content compliant:
Descriptive Link Text
“Click here” doesn’t give the user any information about where they’re about to go. “See our soil sample instructions page for more information” describes exactly where the user will be taken. If the user isn’t interested in soil sample instructions, they won’t waste their time with an extra click. Adding descriptive text makes it much more likely that someone will click on your link. And if your link is broken, your user may still have enough information to find the page.
Images and Alt Text
Alt text (alternative text) is used within HTML code to describe the appearance and function of an image on a page. Visually impaired users using screen readers will be read Alt text to better understand an image on your page. Without Alt text, a screen reader will have no idea what’s in your photo.
In AEM, make sure that you add a descriptive title for your image, and it will automatically be included as the Alt text.
Don’t add images that contain text as the only method to inform your visitors of an event. Screen readers will not be able to read the text and this doesn’t meet accessibility standards.
Take the time to add the full text to your page in a Rich Text box and then use the image as visual enhancement.
Learn more: Image Alt Text
Captions and Transcripts
Captions and transcripts make videos accessible to persons with hearing and sight disabilities. YouTube will automatically caption your video within about 24 hours, but these automatic captions must be edited.
An example of unedited automatic captions from YouTube can be found at: youtube.com/watch?v=KRFuuRLBXoM
Learn more: Two Ways to Caption YouTube Videos
Proper headings organize your page visually, and help screen readers understand your page’s structure. Use Heading 2 for main sections of your page and Heading 3 or Heading 4 for sub-points under your main sections. Headings shouldn’t just be used for emphasis, so even if you think it looks better, resist the temptation to use a Heading 2 simply to draw attention to a bit of text.