Website Accessibility: Achieving 508 Compliance and the Importance of the VPAT

6 min read

What is website accessibility?


Website accessibility refers to the design and development of websites, tools, and technologies in a way that enables people with disabilities to use them. More specifically, website accessibility means that people, including those with disabilities, can perceive, understand, navigate, interact with, and contribute to the web.


Website accessibility usually encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the web, including visual, physical, speech, neurological, auditory, and cognitive. Its benefits usually go beyond people with disabilities to everyone using mobile phones, smart watches, smart TVs, and other devices with small screens as well as different input modes. It also benefits older people who have changing abilities due to their aging, as well as people with temporary disabilities such as broken arms or lost glasses.


Web accessibility depends on several components working together. The components include the underpinning web technologies, web browsers, and other user agents like the tools used in authoring the website.


Website Accessibility: Achieving 508 Compliance and the Importance of the VPAT


Many aspects of web accessibility tend to be fairly easy to understand and implement, while others are more complex and require more knowledge to implement. All in all, when considering it, keep in mind that it is most efficient and effective when incorporated right from the beginning of projects, as this ensures that you don’t need to go back and redo work. That could be achieved by prioritizing website 508 compliance during the planning, design, and development of the website.


What is website 508 compliance


Website 508 compliance is a requirement for websites and other technologies to be accessible for people with disabilities as mandated by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. It is in place to offer guidance to businesses and organizations that both want and need to be accounted for with regard to Section 508 accessibility requirements.


The best way to ensure website 508 compliance is to conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). While WCAG is not a piece of legislation, it is the global gold standard for web accessibility. In fact, professionals who test 508 compliance for websites do so according to WCAG version 2.0 Level AA criteria.


Given that WCAG is generally revised every few years, businesses and organizations should aim for Level AA conformance with the most up-to-date version of WCAG as a best practice. Following the WCAG technical requirements helps businesses and organizations be aligned with the global standards for accessibility and other standards for accessibility, such as Section 508.



Achieving website 508 compliance


The best way to achieve website 508 compliance is by using a checklist as the first step. When it comes to ongoing website 508 compliance, using a credible accessibility platform to help in flagging out accessibility issues on the site and providing suggested ways of fixing them would be a great move. You can also achieve website 508 compliance by learning from a Section 508 VPAT example drawn by a website accessibility expert.


The VPAT, or voluntary product accessibility template, can provide very helpful insights toward achieving website 508 compliance. It is a document used to assess and communicate about how well a given ICT product or service conforms to specific accessibility standards, guidelines, or regulations. It serves as a transparency mechanism that allows businesses and organizations to evaluate the accessibility features and limitations of an ICT product or service before procurement or implementation.


Using a VPAT as a basis for achieving website 508 compliance can be very effective because VPATs are very effective in assessing, communicating, and ensuring the accessibility compliance of digital products or services. VPATs are known to play a crucial role in promoting transparency, fostering collaborations, and driving the adoption of inclusive design principles in the digital landscape.


The VPAT is a rigorous self-assessment tool that analyzes an organization’s ICT products and services, including hardware, software, online content, and support documentation for compliance with Section 508 standards. Four different versions of the VPAT have been created by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which is a global advocate for technology, with each version having standards that correspond to different markets.


The versions are: the 508 compliance VPAT that anchors the accessibility standard for U.S. government agencies and businesses that work with them; the EN 301 549 that is the European accessibility standard for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe; the WCAG VPAT that anchors the WCAG; and the International (INT) VPAT that incorporates all three of the aforementioned standards.


Probably, the final stage toward achieving website 508 compliance would be performing a test of the website’s accessibility. It is when you test the 508 compliance of a website that you can be sure whether the website conforms to the 508 compliance requirements or not.


Determining whether a website conforms to 508 compliance requirements


To determine whether a website conforms to 508 compliance requirements and is fully accessible to people with disabilities, businesses or organizations can use the manual, automated, or hybrid (manual and automated) approaches, following which a 508 compliance VPAT or a VPAT Section 508 compliance statement should be completed.


Need help making your website accessible and completing your VPAT?


You can be assisted to make your website accessible to all its users as well as to complete your website’s VPAT or VPAT Section 508 compliance statement. Prioritizing the completion and updating of VPATs for your websites and other ICT products and services significantly supports informed decision-making, compliance with the existing accessibility standards, and the promotion of inclusive digital experiences for all users. Reach out to ADACP at (626) 486-2201 for more information and help with website accessibility and completing your VPATs.

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