Complying with Accessibility Standards

The goals of compliance are worthwhile and necessary:

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, requires when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology (EIT), they shall ensure that EIT allows Federal employees and members of the public with disabilities to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of information and data by Federal employees and public who are not individuals with disabilities.

However, as anybody who has worked with a government agency knows, making a document Section 508 Compliant can be frustrating. The actual process is filled with technological speed bumps that make the attempt a balding experience. In the most ideal circumstance, you will receive a file and make it compliant before converting it into a PDF. That, at least in my experience, is not usually the case. As the client, you receive a document that has been fully realized. A number of factors could have been overlooked depending on the circumstances of that document’s creation. Now that it has been handed off to you, you now find yourself having to work through a sizable number of errors that were spawned from those oversights made in the original file format before you get the okay from Adobe’s built-in Accessibility Checker. So in hopes that you get that green light soon, we’ve come up with a number of tips and tricks to help you along the way…

Review the relevant agency’s requirements. The laws and standards that govern these efforts are very much set in stone. There might be additional implementation requirements or preferences that vary between agencies though. Some agencies might like brief “Alt Text,” while others might wish for a more nuanced description per image (certain agencies even deplore tagging non-essential graphics as “Artifact”).

Ask if the original document can be made available! It’s better to work from the beginning then to work backwards. As noted above, documents originating from just about everything can be made compliant but there will be extra hurdles thrown at you  if you work from a PDF and it’s a lot more time efficient to do otherwise.

Nobody likes an unbalanced table so symmetry is key. Even if the various rows in a table have numerically unequal content, the tags panel in Adobe must have the same amount of tags per row. Create new Table Data Cells so all Table Rows have a proportionate amount.

What are your experiences with 508 Compliance? When ensuring Section 508 Standards are being met there is a lot more to it then described above-are there any errors or issues you need help with?

Let us know and comment below!

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