Introduction

What is Section 508, and Why Does it Matter?

What is Section 508, and Why Does it Matter?

An image showing a phone, tablet, and computer, with a globe icon overlapping them. Surrounding this image are various symbols representing accessibility such as braille, wheelchair access and closed captioning.
An image showing a phone, tablet, and computer, with a globe icon overlapping them. Surrounding this image are various symbols representing accessibility such as braille, wheelchair access and closed captioning.

The third Thursday of May is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a day that reminds us to consider whether our communications reach everyone equally. It was started in 2012 "to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access/inclusion and people with different disabilities."

Making the digital world accessible to everyone is the spirit behind Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the law that requires federal agencies to make their information and communication technology accessible to and usable by people who have disabilities. At QIP, we work with clients to ensure that their products comply not only with the letter of law but also with the spirit of the law. Public resources should be available to everyone regardless of ability.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 26 percent of American adults—about 61 million people—live with a disability, including nearly 6 percent with a serious hearing disability, nearly 5 percent with a serious sight disability, and almost 11 percent with a cognitive disability. Neglecting accessibility means potentially eliminating one of every four people you might want to receive your message.

At times, we have worked with people who have been taught "508" is something to be tacked on to the end of a project. Thinking about accessibility from the beginning of a project through the end ensures both compliance with 508 requirements (the letter of the law) and participation in the spirit of the law—inclusion. That could mean providing closed captions on your instructional video, ensuring screenreader software can accurately read your infographic, or using colors with good contrast.

Doing 508 compliance right means developing a clear message that reaches everyone regardless of ability and constantly seeking new ways to communicate better. On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, consider attending a virtual event or participating in a challenge to develop greater understanding.

At QIP, we will be using a range of tools to assess our website, and at least one member of our staff is taking a 10-day accessibility challenge. How will you make the world more equal today?

Samaneh Mirzaei, Computer and Information System Manager
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