Is your website ADA compliant? Section 508 is the key portion of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) that deals with websites. The provision was enacted in 1998 to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. For years, developers have often created websites that are Section 508 compliant only if the site is part of a government contract or have an audience that requires these standards. However, in recent years, there has been an increasing amount of cases where websites that are not compliant have opened themselves up to litigation.
There also have been additional pressures to create compliant websites. In particular, the rise of responsively designed sites have encouraged the use of standards such as Section 508. Responsive design is a recent phenomenon as its goal is to ensure that a website displays properly on all kinds of devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets. For example, a major change is that Google announced that it will rate mobile-friendly websites higher in its mobile search rankings than those that are not.
The upshot is that ADA-friendly websites are simply better and go a long way to meeting the higher standards that tools like Google are now considering.
So is your conference website Section 508 compliant? Even if it is, are your online registration forms also accessible? Here are two tools that will help you find out.
WAVEThere used to be a free web service called “Bobby” which was used to mark a site as ADA compliant. However, the tool was ultimately acquired by IBM in 2007 and ceased to be free. However, the slack was taken up by a non-profit called WebAim. They provide a powerful service (no charge) called WAVE or Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool that evaluates a site’s accessibility.
To use WAVE, just paste in the URL of the web page that you are testing. You will then get a textual and visual result of errors (which means you need to resolve them) and alerts (less important.)
Web page evaluation is based on the fact that each site has underlying HTML source code. This code is based on a “tag” structure that includes features that can help users with a disability work with a web page. These features, for example, include the ability to help those who are visually impaired or color blind. However, if these tags are not utilized, the site will not be compliant.
W3CThe second free tool, called W3C Markup Validation Service, is less concerned with ADA features and is, instead, focused on the proper structure of the web page HTML. Even if a page passes the WAVE test, a failure on the W3C tool can result in the ADA readers not working properly. Consequently, this tool should be part of your evaluation.
In all likelihood, meeting planners will not be conducting these tests. You should, however, have your web master or providers of third party services such as online registration ensure that your pages pass these two tests. By being Section 508 compliant, your site will not only meet ADA requirements, it will probably result in a better user experience for everyone.