ADA 508 Compliance for Municipalities: Everything you ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask

What does it mean: ADA 508 Compliance?

The Americans Disability Act 508 compliance can be viewed here: https://www.ada.gov/508/

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 794d) requires that Federal agencies’ electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public.

Boiling this down to one word: “Accessibility

We need to make websites and their content and information be Accessible to everybody, no matter the nature of anybody’s ability or disability.

Quick Overview of what ADA 508 Compliance for Municipalities

In August 2018, President of Town Web, Dustin Overbeck, gave a presentation at the Wisconsin Municipal Clerk’s Association about making municipal websites accessible. Here is a video “Cliff Notes” version from that presentation:

Types of Disabilities

For the purpose of covering most of what is needed for a municipal website to be ADA 508 compliant, I have listed four main areas: Visual, Hearing, Mobility, and Cognitive.

Limited Visual Abilities

  • Blindness (partial and total)
  • Color blindness
  • Reduced contrast sensitivity
  • Reduced color perception
  • Near-focus, making it difficult to read web pages

How to include people with limited visual abilities

  • Allow a site to be navigated easily with a screen reader
  • Provide sufficient color contrast
  • Make images “readable” using alt-text
  • Allow the site’s font size to be increased w/o breaking site
  • Describing each linked element so that it’s obvious where it goes

Limited Physical Abilities

  • Could include reduced dexterity and fine motor control
  • Difficulty using a mouse
  • Hard to click on small target areas

How to include people with limited physical abilities

  • Allow a site to be navigated with just a keyboard (tab & enter key)
  • Allow a site to be navigated with just a mouse/trackpad
  • Use large buttons with large clickable areas
  • Allow for ample space between two different clickable areas

Limited Hearing Ability

  • Difficulty hearing higher-pitched sounds
  • Difficult separating sounds from multiple speakers
  • Difficult to listen to podcasts and other audio, especially if there is background music

How to include people with limited hearing ability

  • For any videos, use embedded subtitles
  • For audio links, include transcripts
  • Don’t require only audio queues for actions, also make it visual

Limited Cognitive Ability

  • Having reduced short-term memory
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Being easily distracted
  • Difficulty to follow navigation and complete online tasks

How to include people with limited cognitive ability

  • Use a simple layout
  • Make the flow go in one direction instead of hopping around
  • Use left-justified text, which helps people with dyslexia
  • Don’t use long and difficult forms; break them into simpler steps

History of the International Symbol of Access (ISA)

ISA logoUndoubtedly you recognize the ISA wheelchair logo as a white wheelchair symbol with a circle for a head, and a blue background. The actual design of this logo was created by a Danish design student (Susanne Koefoed) in 1968, according to the Wikipedia page entry.

The intended purpose of the design was to show that access to areas had been improved, particularly for wheelchair users. However many people who have disabilities are individuals who do not have a physical disability. According to statistics from a collective of creatives in London called Visibility93, 93-95% of all individual who have a disability have one that is non-visual.

poster showing 93% of people with disabilities don't use a wheelchairIt is also considered impolite to ask people the nature of their disability. If an individual states that they have a disability to somebody at your municipality, it would be better to ask how they can be accommodated.

Changes to the Symbol (in New York)

wheelchair symbol showing a forward movement

In 2014, there were changes made in the State of New York by a bill which removed the words “handicapped” from signage and which also updated the wheelchair symbol to a new design (which is still considered controversial) according to an article on Yahoo News.

Mobile Software that People with Visual Disabilities Use

At Town Web, we are consulting with several different individuals who are real-world users of municipal websites and who are best poised to give us feedback. One individual  mentioned that a majority of blind users will visit sites using a mobile device and they will use the a screen reader that is part of the operating system they are using.

For example, the Screen Reader for iOS devices is called VoiceOver. The screen reader for Android devices is called TalkBalk.

Free Tools for Contrast Measurement

Here is a free online tool that can be used for checking contrast of image and of foreground/background combinations.

  1. ContrastChecker
    URL: https://contrastchecker.com/

    1. You can manually add the hex codes values for a foreground and background colors
    2. It will show you whether or not it complies with the various WCAG 2.0 criterion, (see image below)
      results showing that there is not enough contrast to meet WCAG 2.0 criterion
    3. You can also upload images and it will display a grayscale version