In the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, US lawmakers recognized that the emerging information technologies could restrict the opportunities for those with a disabilities. This law started the process of enforceable requirements to ensure all individuals can receive the same benefits of internet access. Section 508, as it is known today, provides web developers the guidelines for being compliant.
This section bars the Federal government from procuring electronic and information technology (E&IT) goods and services that are not fully accessible to those with disabilities.
WebAIM.com Overview of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
It is very clear, to do business with US federal government agencies, or any company or non-profit organization that adopts these policies, must be consistent with the Section 508 requirements. Be too creative and web design proposals can be rejected.
Web Design Requirements for Section 508
Section 508 1194.22a-p provides the 16 requirements for web design. Since they have been the standard for many years, most are included in web development tools or are considered best practices. For easy reference, listed below are the first five. All the requirements with explanations are available at the Quick Reference Guide to Section 508: Web Based Internet and Internet Information and Applications.
- 1194.22 (a) A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided.
- 1194.22 (b) Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.
- 1194.22 (c) Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color.
- 1194.22 (d) Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.
- 1194.22 (e) Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server-side image map.
Win Government Contracts
Web designers seeking the award of government contracts should understand the law. They should be familiar with the accessibility requirements of those with disabilities and incorporate them in all web projects.
- WebAIM.com Overview of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- GSA Government Wide Section 508 Accessibility Program Reference Guide
- ClarkWP Magazine: Web Accessibility, Small flashing Objects and Text
- ClarkWP Magazine: Web Builders’ Guidelines for Government Websites