If you’ve been learning about the importance of web accessibility remediation solutions, WCAG validators, and why it’s necessary in order to comply with Section 508 of the Rehab Act, you probably also have many questions about how to get your website to the point of compliance.
Accessibility remediation is the term used to explain the process of eliminating barriers for people with disabilities. In the digital world, your website has been successfully remediated if and when it meets all the standards under Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Before now, the standards under WCAG 1.0 were acceptable at a minimum, but that’s no longer the case. Organizations should be looking to the more relevant standards of WCAG 2.0. There are various accessibility remediation solutions and WCAG validators based on the WCAG 2.0 success criteria.
So which approach is right for you?
The Rehabilitation Act, as you probably know, was put in place to protect the equal rights of people with disabilities. Section 508 is the part of the Rehab Act that prevents discrimination in the area of electronic and information technology.
Section 508 must be followed by all federal government departments, as well as any organizations that are funded or contracted by the government. All the electronic and information technology they make available to employees or to the public must, by law, be usable by anyone who has a disability.
Because this kind of technology is rapidly changing, an update to Section 508 (a “refresh”) has already become necessary.
The new set of Section 508 revisions was published in the Federal Register on January 18, 2017. Full compliance with these updated requirements, which incorporate the standards of WCAG 2.0, will be required by January 18, 2018.
Why Accessibility Remediation Matters
In practical terms, Section 508 means that, among other things, a covered entity’s website and any type of information and communications technology must be completely accessible before it can be purchased by the government.
And if it isn’t, the organization must choose and use appropriate accessibility remediation solutions, followed by ongoing monitoring (to make sure it doesn’t fall out of compliance again).
How do you guarantee a website is accessible?
WCAG, fortunately, is accepted universally – including by the U.S. government. If a website meets the criteria set out under WCAG 2.0, it can be considered accessible, and compliant with Section 508.
That leads us to the next obvious question: How do you know if a website meets all the criteria of WCAG 2.0, let alone how to fix it if it falls short? Are you obligated to take a crash-course in advanced web development?
How else will you know whether your website meets – oh, let’s pick one at random – say, WCAG success criterion number 4.1.1:
“In content implemented using markup languages, elements have complete start and end tags, elements are nested according to their specifications, elements do not contain duplicate attributes, and any IDs are unique, except where the specifications allow these features”?
You’d be forgiven if that particular directive doesn’t mean a whole lot to you!
It might, however, mean a lot to the person with a disability trying to use your website. The truth is, if criterion 4.1.1 of WCAG isn’t met, his or her assistive technology may crash every time he or she visits your home page. And then, dissatisfied to say the least, he or she may give up on your website altogether, and click the page of a competitor instead. There are millions – not thousands, but millions – of people with disabilities online every day.
If you would like to learn more about the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, you can download our “Must Have WCAG 2.0 Checklist” resource paper.
Using WCAG Validators Before Remediation
Fortunately, a WCAG validator can let you know whether your website meets these standards even if you don’t have technical expertise.
A WCAG validator is an automated web accessibility checker. Since all you must do is input the URL of the website you want checked, you can use it for instant web accessibility testing. AChecker is one such validator.
If your website fails the test, you can then explore WCAG 2.0 accessibility remediation solutions to bring it up to speed.
Be warned, though, that a validator may churn out a long list of potential accessibility barriers – and, typically, not all the issues identified by the validator will be problematic.
Only an accessibility expert can determine which issues do need remediation. (In fact, as you’ll learn shortly, even if your website “passes” the test, you can’t be certain your website is actually accessible without a full, human-led assessment that includes manual and functional testing.)
508 Compliance Testing Tools
Do accessibility-testing tools check for Section 508?
As we explained above, WCAG 2.0 are considered acceptable guidelines to follow for websites aiming to be compliant with the Section 508 refresh. Thus, a WCAG validator could also be considered a 508 checker.
However, it’s important to note that WCAG 2.0 has different levels: A, AA, and AAA. And per the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Office of Information, Integrity, and Access, websites that follow only the lowest level of WCAG may leave a lot of barriers in place – and won’t be considered compliant with Section 508.
Websites should follow at least level AA, and thus the web accessibility checker you’re using should also be testing against WCAG’s level AA. AChecker does this by default (with other options available), but not all validators necessarily do as well – so make sure to confirm it.
Many automated accessibility testing tools are not exhaustive. They may test a few elements or components of a website only, checking whether the color contrast is adequate, or whether PDF documents are usable by people with disabilities.
Very often, they don’t take mobile device performance into account. As a consequence, a website that is approved as accessible by a WCAG validator may not actually be accessible at all when viewed on a mobile device.
Barriers can suddenly crop up in a mobile environment, like picture details appearing so tiny that a person with a disability can’t click on them.
Other accessibility developer tools such as colour contrast checkers or even basic ones such as accessibility checkers on Microsoft Word or Office aren’t perfect.
You would need an accessibility testing tool for mobile devices to search for these kinds of problems: mobiReady is one such validator. None of these tools, of course, are as reliable as human testing.
What’s Your Best Option for Web Accessibility Remediation?
Although some of the automated accessibility testers and WCAG validators may include suggested fixes in their reports, they won’t repair your website for you.
And if you don’t have web-building expertise as well as extensive, up-to-date knowledge about accessibility barriers, those solutions won’t be much help to you. Same goes for online resources, such as government websites, that may list a few basic suggestions1 for ensuring your website does not contain barriers.
Even if you’re able to figure out how to follow these suggestions, that doesn’t guarantee there aren’t other accessibility problems somewhere on your site that aren’t addressed in the basic list.
The most accurate, thorough and reliable web accessibility remediation and reports will come from human beings who make it their livelihood to know this stuff, inside and out.
Not only will qualified web accessibility consultants manually inspect every component of your website, they will also use several different types of assistive technology and input devices to test whether their online experience is seamless in all situations – including a mobile environment.
Following this evaluation, they will recommend tried-and-true WCAG 2.0 accessibility remediation solutions to ensure that your website is welcoming to everyone.
They will incorporate these recommendations themselves, so that the guesswork is out of your hands. You’ll be able to proudly tell your colleagues, clients and customers that your website meets WCAG standards and is 508-compliant, something you couldn’t do with only a WCAG validator.
You’re telling them how much you value the disability market!
An Innovative Web Accessibility Remediation Solution
eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has developed a “full-stack accessibility solution“ to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with the required regulations and standards. This includes integrating web accessibility evaluation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative remediation solutions.
- Delivering Accessible Products & Services. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, February 5, 2015