We have found that making websites accessible is not only good for society but it’s also good for business. Like creating ramps in addition to stairs, accessibility means that you can serve more customers and make it easier and more convenient for people to do business with you.
An added benefit to accessibility is that search bots and search engines lack the ability to see, hear, and move a mouse. So, whatever you do for accessibility and people with disabilities also assists search engines with finding, navigating, and indexing your website. Consequently, an accessible website is also more naturally search engine optimized (SEO) for search engines.
Our general approach to accessibility is to start with accessible ingredients. Before we embed images into a PDF we ensure that those images have been made accessible first. Then, when we convert the document into a PDF it will already have a head start on accessibility and 508 compliance. Subsequently, when we include that PDF within a website, an accessible PDF helps make the entire website accessible. We follow this same approach to all of the digital assets we include in a website template or web page.
There is also a distinction between an accessible content management system (CMS) theme or template and the actual content that is uploaded to and managed by the CMS. Both need to be accessible. But, if you start with an accessible CMS theme or template then you can focus in the future primarily on ensuring the content remains accessible and 508 compliant.
The low-hanging fruit for 508 compliance of the CMS theme or template is to ensure high contrast between the font color and background colors, logical tab order, ability to change the font size, alt tags for the embedded graphics, descriptive link text (not just “read more”) and title tags for the links.
The low-hanging fruit for content accessibility is descriptive alt tags for images (not just alt=”image” but something that actually describes the image of the image), transcripts or captions for audio or video, preference for real text instead of JPGs or GIFs with embedded text, and well-formatted and annotated tables.
For Section 508 compliance testing and auditing, we use a combination of automated tools plus human analysis. Generally speaking, every time new content is added to a website or content is changed, it needs to be tested again for 508 compliance. Therefore, it is important to have a regular, periodic schedule for testing and resting of accessibility and Section 508 compliance.