Section 508 is a requirement for government websites, and in general, for Federal agencies’ electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities.
Normally, we build websites for general public, we don’t keep in mind features that allow the website to be accessible by Seniors, people with sight disabilities and even blind people. Actually, some minimalistic design trends are way apart of the 508 compliance, designers don’t care so much about the level of contrast, access keys, tabs order, font sizes, etc, they mostly care about the look and feel.
Well, I can say that to make a website 508 compliant is a tedious work. The rules are actually simple, but the execution of those rules take time. In addition, keeping the website free of 508 errors takes time and money too, specially where there are more than one contributor. That’s probably why a .gov site is more expensive than other websites.
Section 508 rules for websites:
508 is not only for websites, it applies to other technologies, like operative systems, software applications, telecommunications, etc; but those rules also apply for information formats, like videos and documents.
This set of rules are specifically for Websites: § 1194.22 Web-based intranet and internet information and applications.
I invite you to read the full list of items on the link above, but to put you in context, some of the rules are:
- Use “meaningful” alt attributes on all the images of your website, even if it’s a graphical element, or a transparent gif to fill in real state.
- Level of contrast between the elements of design should be high.
- Use label tags for form elements
- The code needs to be valid according to the w3c.
- Videos on your site should have transcript.
- Documents on your site need to have metadata with a summary of the content of the document
- And so on…