Creating software that is accessible and meets several governed standards can be difficult and time-consuming in execution.
However, there are no shortcuts around it; as we continue to develop and offer services through web-based applications, it’s imperative that the provided benefits are available to everyone.
This topic is more relevant than ever, and I look forward to presenting on Software Accessibility Standards at the 2015 CAPPA Technology and Leadership Conference this Friday, February 25. In this session we will focus on following Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and W3C standards to provide an accessible interface for your users, employees and customers.
What are the standards?
There are several guidelines for web accessibility, such as ADA compliance, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. These standards are developed to ensure that people with disabilities are able to use a web service as fully as those without a disability. Specifically, Section 508 guidelines are designed to facilitate individuals with disabilities that fall within these 4 main categories:
- Visual: Blindness, low vision, color-blindness.
- Motor: Inability to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control.
- Hearing: Deafness and hard-of-hearing.
- Cognitive: Learning disabilities, distractibility, inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information.
Section 508 Standards for software include:
- Applications shall not disrupt or disable active accessibility features.
- User interface elements shall be available to assistive technology.
- Image meanings shall be consistent through the application’s performance.
- Textual information shall be provided through operating system functions.
You can read all of the Section 508 Standards for software here.
How does it apply to software?
The Federal law can carry over to institutions receiving federal funds, which can greatly impact technology servicing the Higher Education market. Many universities have adopted Section 508 or similar standards, meaning they do not utilize any program that does not provide accessibility for all.
But more than just adhering to regulations, following standards often makes a web page or program more user-friendly for everyone.
For example, images, graphs, and charts without additional information is lost information for the blind. However, the computer can read accompanying text that describes the graph. The redundancy is an added bonus to those who can see, as repetition can increase the likelihood of retention, according to the US National Institutes of Health article "Effects of repetition on short-term retention of order information".
This is an example of a Section 508-compliant column chart. It includes text that gives the same information as the visual aid.
Resources to get started:
During my presentation at CAPPA Tech, we will discuss the importance and challenges of developing and implementing accessible software. The goal is to help the audience understand regulations and auditing gaps, and give recommendations to help them get started.