As organizations, it’s important for us to make our services accessible to those who are disabled. People with impairments deserve the same access as everyone else, but it can feel impossible when an organization’s technology is not user-friendly for them.
Sometimes necessary accessibility updates are avoided due to costs, other times they are simply overlooked. As businesses, we need to do better about ensuring our technology is accessible.
508 Compliance is a legal requirement for federal agencies but it also shows that you care about your end users.
Do you know if your organization is at risk of litigation due to a lack of accessibility? Do your end users find it difficult to navigate your electronic information and systems?
We want to help organizations like yours understand what is involved and what is at stake when it comes to ADA compliance so that you can make the best decisions for your website and digital experiences.
Background of 508 ADA Compliance and its Importance
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990 to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against in any area of public life. Title III of the ADA, also known as the 508 ADA, specifically requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) (i.e. websites, web apps, software etc.) accessible to people with disabilities.
508 ADA compliance is essential for creating a more inclusive society that values diversity and ensures equal access to information and technology for all individuals, regardless of their abilities. This is a requirement for federal agencies but more important than that, it shows you care.
Why Federal Agencies Should Invest in Their ADA Compliance Efforts
How well do you understand 508 ADA compliance? Most agencies know they must abide by it but don’t really know what it is or how well they meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
It’s commonly assumed that the agency is doing something about ADA compliance so it is easily overlooked, but there are many reasons why agencies should take the time to review and invest in their compliance measures.
One of the primary reasons for 508 ADA compliance is legal compliance. Failure to comply with 508 ADA regulations can result in legal action against federal agencies. The Department of Justice (DOJ) can file lawsuits against federal agencies that do not comply with 508 ADA standards. These lawsuits can lead to costly settlements, fines, and damage to the agency's reputation.
In the last several years, there has been a record number of ADA lawsuits filed. Seyfarth Shaw LLP has monitored ADA lawsuits since 2013 and has seen a 320% increase in ADA lawsuits from 2013 to 2021 hitting an all-time high.
508 ADA compliance is essential for creating a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities. By making EIT accessible, federal agencies ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities to access information and technology as those without disabilities. This is particularly important in areas such as education, employment, and healthcare, where access to information can significantly impact an individual's quality of life.
As a nation, we’ve wanted to bring about more inclusivity to marginalized peoples. While you may not get much praise for ADA compliance, you are contributing to a movement that allows those with disabilities to engage with your technology just like everyone else allowing them to improve their quality of life.
Better User Experience
508 ADA compliance improves the user experience for everyone. Accessible technology makes it easier for everyone to use EIT, regardless of their abilities. For example, captioned videos benefit not only people with hearing impairments but also those who prefer to watch videos without sound. Text-to-speech technology can benefit people with visual impairments but also those who prefer to listen to content rather than read it.
A better user experience decreases friction and makes it easier for people to utilize your services, whether disabled or not. As an organization, you must begin focusing on the end user and what value you can bring to them. Chris Tomlinson from the State Road and Tollway Authority in Atlanta Georgia understood this as they looked to develop their new web and app experience.
Positive Social Impact
508 ADA compliance has a positive social impact. By making EIT accessible, federal agencies demonstrate their commitment to inclusion and diversity. As organizations, we must remain as profitable as we can, but sometimes we just have to do what is best for our customers or end users.
This commitment can inspire others to do the same, leading to a more inclusive and equitable society.
Should nonfederal agencies follow ADA Compliance Standards?
508 ADA Compliance is the standard for federal agencies. However, there are other instances that would require a nonfederal agency to follow ADA compliance standards.
For instance, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires organizations that receive federal funding or assistance to also comply with ADA standards.
Outside of legal requirements, some organizations may still want to abide by ADA (or similar) compliance standards for the benefits they bring. All organizations and brands can benefit similarly in the ways we discussed above.
- Inclusivity and social impact
- Enhanced user experience
- Improved SEO
Organizations are finding what’s good for people is good for business. Enhancing the user experience for those who are disabled or impaired, can ultimately improve the bottom line for your business.
Does your electronic and information technology meet the Standards?
You know ADA compliance is important, but here’s the important question. Do you meet the standards? If you’re like most people within your organization you have no idea what your scoring is or how to check.
One of our goals as a creative web development agency is to help federal agencies, those who work with federal agencies and enterprise-level companies understand how their end users interact with their technology and how to enhance that experience. The first step to enhancing this experience is by knowing where you currently stand.
When it comes to 508 ADA compliance, you can check your scoring with free online checkers as well as more in-depth paid testing. There are free online checkers like https://www.accessibilitychecker.org/ and https://wave.webaim.org/ which will provide a rough estimate of how well you score. W3.org has a list of tools to check various aspects of your website https://www.w3.org/WAI/ER/tools/.
To learn more about testing and certifications, you can visit the GSA’s Section 508 website.
Take the time to understand where your organization’s information technology stands and if enhancements need to be made. If you’ve been thinking about a new website or web application, it is a perfect time to start considering these things.
If you have questions about ADA 508 compliance and your website, reach out to us and we can help you understand the process and anything you might need to know.