Monday, August 10, 2009

Section 508

“In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an individual's ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. ‘ 794d), agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others. It is recommended that you review the laws and regulations listed below to further your understanding about Section 508 and how you can support implementation.”

To what extent should designers consider accessibility options during the prototype phase? Is this something that designers should be inherently doing and building into their everyday design practices? Are there design patterns to meet these standards?

For example, Section 508 states that “the standards aim to ensure that such information is also available in an accessible format…the use of text labels or descriptors for graphics and certain format elements”

I recently observed a usability review of a table displaying data. There was a page title and description directly over the table. Users generally know where they are from the navigation, so why have these extra titles? They repeated what the navigation (tabs) stated, and added more clutter to the page. The reason? To support accessibility requirements. I feel often designers are given a false choice between “good usability” and supporting accessibility requirements.

What are some ways to work towards a more seamless integration of supporting accessibility standards and following traditional usability practices?

1 comment:

  1. It's no coincidence that Adobe and Microsoft are both continuing to add new accessibility features to Flash and Silverlight. A side benefit of most accessibility measures is that they improve searchability and rank. If a screen reader can get to it, a spider can too, without having to resort to computationally expensive audio and video perception.

    There's also an element of UX to how you make content accessible. For example, to make a chart accessible do you just present the raw data, describe the trends shown by the graph, or something in between?


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