Skip to content

How to Conduct a 508 Compliance Audit: A Step-by-Step Guide

Fed Writers
March 1, 2024
Fed Features

Wooden blocks on a keyboard spelling 'STEP BY STEP', symbolizing a guide to 508 compliance.

Introduction

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on ensuring your digital content is accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. In today’s digital landscape, embracing inclusivity isn’t just ethical; for many organizations, it’s a legal requirement. This guide, provided by FedWriters, aims to walk you through the process of conducting a 508 Compliance audit, a crucial step towards achieving digital accessibility.

While we strive to offer accurate and actionable information, please consider this guide as a starting point for understanding 508 Compliance. It’s important to consult with legal or accessibility professionals for advice tailored to your specific situation. Our goal is to empower you with knowledge and tools to begin your journey toward greater accessibility, ensuring your digital content not only meets legal requirements but also embraces a broader audience with varying needs.

What is 508 Compliance?

508 Compliance refers to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which mandates that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities. This law has been updated to include modern technologies, ensuring that websites, software, and other digital content are accessible to a wider audience.

Preparing for a 508 Compliance Audit

Understand the Standards: Familiarize yourself with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which are part of 508 Compliance. These guidelines are internationally recognized and provide a framework for making web content more accessible.

Assemble Your Team: A successful audit requires a team effort. Include IT professionals, content creators, and importantly, individuals with disabilities to provide firsthand insights into the user experience.

Audit Tools and Resources: Many tools can help you assess your compliance. Automated tools like WAVE or the AXE browser extension can identify some issues, but remember, they can’t catch everything.

Conducting the Audit: Step-by-Step

  • Scope Your Audit: Decide if you’re auditing the entire website or specific parts. It’s often practical to start with high-traffic pages or critical content.
  • Review the Current State: Use the selected tools to perform an initial review. This will give you a broad sense of where your site stands regarding accessibility.
  • Manual Testing: Engage users with disabilities to test the site manually. They can uncover issues that automated tools might miss, such as navigability with a screen reader or the ease of filling out forms.
  • Document Findings: Keep detailed records of all issues discovered, categorizing them by type and severity. This documentation will be invaluable for the next steps.
  • Create an Action Plan: Prioritize the issues based on their impact on accessibility. Develop a clear, actionable plan for addressing each one, assigning responsibilities and deadlines.

Specific Examples and Remediation Strategies

When addressing accessibility, consider the variety of content types on your site:

  • PDFs: Ensure all PDFs are tagged correctly, allowing screen readers to navigate the document effectively. Tools like Adobe Acrobat provide functionalities to check and fix accessibility issues.
  • Videos: All video content should have captions and transcripts to accommodate users with hearing impairments. Additionally, consider audio descriptions for users with visual impairments.
  • Forms: Ensure all form fields are labeled correctly and can be navigated using keyboard shortcuts. This includes providing clear error messages and instructions for users who need assistance.

Resource Links

For further guidance, here are some valuable resources:

Post-Audit Actions

Implement Changes: Begin work on the most critical issues. This may involve reworking web content, altering navigation, or even redesigning elements of your site.

Training and Awareness: Educate your team on the importance of 508 Compliance and accessible design principles. Regular training sessions can help prevent future compliance issues.

Continuous Monitoring: Accessibility is an ongoing commitment. Establish procedures for regularly reviewing and updating your content to maintain compliance.

Conclusion

By following this guide, you can take significant steps toward making your digital content accessible to all users. Remember, accessibility should be viewed as a continuous effort, reflecting your commitment to inclusivity and equality. While this guide serves as a valuable starting point, always seek professional advice for specific legal or technical challenges you may face.

Looking to ensure your digital content is fully accessible? Contact FedWriters for expert assistance with 508 Compliance audits and accessible content creation. Plus, download our Free 508 Compliance Checklist to get started on your audit.