Checks, Checks, Checks
It’s likely, in providing a product to a Federal government client, that you’ve been asked, “is it 508-compliant?” Depending on how familiar you are with accessibility and Section 508 of the law, you might have said, “Yes!” or “I’ll test it,” or “I’ll get back to you.” My hope is that after reading these posts, that you’ll be confident in your answer to that question and know where to go to go next.
I’ve come up with 3 basic levels to understanding and knowing about 508-compliance (most of the time, “508-compliant” = accessible):
Level 1: Expert
You know exactly what it means to be accessible. You constantly immerse yourself in reading, videos, and commentary to keep yourself up to speed on changes, thoughts about, and improvements on making digital content accessible to everyone. If you don’t know an answer, you know where to find it. You like helping others know more about accessibility and just might be passionate about it.
Level 2: Resourceful
You generally know where to go to find out yourself if your product is 508-compliant, or you know who to ask. You probably need help to be sure, but you learn a bit more every time you analyze a product or have it tested, so that the next time, you need less outside help. You are comfortable advising others on whether their products are generally accessible.
Level 1: Familiar
You have a basic understanding of what it means to be 508-compliant, but you aren’t sure how to know if your product is. You are comfortable asking someone from Level 1 & 2 for help, but you have an inkling about accessibility.
If you’re in the Level 2 realm and want to run some checks yourself, you’re in luck! There is more information about accessibility available to you free and online than ever before. Because there are so many options, sometimes it’s hard to know out just where to start.
Basic Tests You Can Run Yourself
Here are some basic tests you can run yourself (my favorites) and a list of lot more options in the resources.
Web Page Accessibility
WebAIM developed the WAVE tool, an excellent resource I have used for many years. The WAVE report is easy to read and shows your page in real time while it lists errors and flags. This will only work with live URLs (not local).
Keyboard testing: Likely, you have a keyboard. If you have a keyboard, you probably have a mouse. Put the mouse away, and don’t touch it while you navigate your web page just using the arrow, tab, and enter keys on your keyboard. Can you get through the page? Can you tab to where you want to go in a logical order? This the easiest test to run, in my opinion.
The 2010 version of Microsoft Word has an accessibility tester. It’s a good place to start and gives you tips when you have an error. It is located at File > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility. A panel will come up in the right area of your screen that will list 2 areas: Errors and Warnings. Click one, and a panel will appear explaining “Why Fix” and “How to Fix.” This checker is a good place to start, but don’t assume that “fixing” all of the errors will make the file accessible. Some of the “fixes” are unnecessary, but for the most part, it’s a pretty good checker. Note: this checker is also available in other Microsoft products like Excel.
Acrobat Pro includes an Accessibility Checker located at: Tools > Accessibility > Full Check. After running the checker, a panel will appear with a list of things to analyze and repair. You can fix everything in this checker and still not meet requirements of your client. Be sure that you know what they require or be prepared to get comments back that require more fixes. Another feature available is “Read Out Loud.” This will read the page for you to make sure things are in order and accessible to screen readers.
There are TONS of checkers out there, but these are the most accessible (!) to us regular folks. Have fun!
- The HHS Section 508 Accessibility checklists are great when you need more information about making things accessible.
- Everything from MS Word to captioning video is available on the National Center on Disability and Access to Education website.
- The WebAim Section 508 Checklist is pretty handy, but I bet it will be updated soon with the Refresh of the law.
- The Paciello Group’s accessibility testing tools might be for more advanced developers, but still are handy.
- The GSA has a Section508 website (which will soon be moved) that lists many guidances and checklists for all different kinds of files: Create Accessible Electronic Documents