508 Compliance 101: Accessible Files

August 31, 2016   |   Margaret Chialastri

There are over 13 million people in the United States that have a disability that could make it difficult to navigate websites, web applications, documents, and more. In an effort to create an accessible digital world the federal government passed Section 508 which is an amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

What does 508 compliance mean?

In a nutshell, all electronic and digital information used by the federal government has to be accessible to those with disabilities.

So how do you become 508 compliant?

Becoming 508 compliant can be a large undertaking as you need to look at all of your files including PDF, Word Docs, Excel Files, and PowerPoint Slides as well as your website and multimedia files.

Take inventory of current files: Create a database of current files in Excel or another program. Are they compliant? If not, why? Take a look at the 508 accessibility checklists on the HHS Website for reference.


508 Compliance Excel Database


Create groups for updates: Look at the inventory and create groups of files based on the type and why they failed 508 compliance testing. This can be done through sorting and filtering within Excel. In the above example, we would group File2, File5, and File6 as all of these files need the font updated.

Determine priority: After looking at the files and what needs to be done determine priorities. Are these files distributed frequently? Does the website receive a lot of visitors? Prioritize fixes to make the most impact as well as what can be done quickly.

Get to work: This will be a long process for most organizations. Rally the team and break the work into manageable pieces. Make sure to update the file database so you can track progress and keep the process moving forward.

Test your work: If you don’t personally know someone that uses assistive technology you can replicate issues that people may encounter to ensure your files are accessible. Unplug your mouse and try to navigate the document using just your keyboard or turn off your speakers and use just subtitles or a transcript to understand the information being presented in a video.

All Finished! You are 508 compliant and your files are accessible to everyone. Keep your checklists handy and remember all documents created should be checked to ensure compliance prior to distribution or publishing. It’s much easier to remain compliant than to tackle a large backlog of files!

If you are interested in learning more about 508 compliance or need help getting started Contact Blue Water for help!