Understanding Section 508 Compliance
As we have learned in our Grammar for Professional Communicators class, making multimedia Section 508 compliant will likely soon be standard practice across industries.
This may, at first glance, seem like a whole new world of confusion, as the law is not always easy to understand. The jargon often used in legal documents can be confusing, dull, and (ironically) inaccessible. The following is a brief summary of changes recommended to be Section 508 compliant:
- Incorporate a title and an alt for each non-text element, and, when possible, a description.
- Use captioning on videos and animations.
- Supplement color coding with other signs, such as text.
- Use heading tags.
- Provide client side image maps when possible.
- Use table header tags for data tables.
- Avoid rapidly blinking elements.
- Provide text-only versions of pages.
- Provide NOSCRIPT page alternatives.
- Provide links to plug-ins that might be required to view a page.
- Create forms that are accessible to those with alternative technology, such as screen readers.
- Alert the user and provide them with an option to extend time when you create something that requires a timed response.
How Accessible Writing Benefits You
However, even with these suggestions, many content creators are reluctant to put in the effort required to make their work accessible. The most common reason for this is that they feel that it is extremely unlikely that their content would be accessed by enough disabled people to make it worth their time. What many fail to realize is that being Section 508 compliant can actually benefit you and your general audience as well! Here’s how:
Adding title, alt, and description tags to your multimedia make it easier for search engines to crawl and display your work to users. By adding these meta properties, you are able to reach a larger audience and potentially gain more views. SEO by Yoast is a great plugin for adding metadata to WordPress blogs.
Offering captioning for your videos and animations is appreciated by many viewers. I am not hearing-impaired, but often have difficulty understanding audio that is played back through speakers rather than headphones. For many, captioning makes it easier to understand and remember content.
Using HTML tags such as headings and data headers make it easier for both readers and search engines to understand your content. Here is a guide to using HTML in WordPress.
Providing links to plug-ins that might be required to access content is courteous and is appreciated by users.