The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of the most broad-reaching pieces of legislation of this generation and it has a significant impact on the technology industry. Section 508 of the ADA protects the disabled against discrimination-specifically within the IT industry. It states that inaccessible technology interferes with a person's ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily and, as such, it is a form of discrimination.
According to the summary of Section 508 standards, it also aims to expand opportunities for the disabled and encourage development of equally accessible technologies for all users. In this article, I will put accessibility in context for the enterprise, provide best practices for making sure your Website is accessible, showcase tools to help make this happen, and provide real-world examples of how this can work for your company.
Accessibility in IT
Accessibility in the IT sector means that people with disabilities or impairments have equal access to the features and functions of a software application or Website. This idea is all-encompassing and includes those with impaired mobility, vision, hearing and dexterity. The goal of accessibility in IT is to serve as many people as possible, including populations with varying levels of impairment. This is particularly important as baby boomers (a group that relies heavily on finding information and performing tasks online) continue to age and lose mobility and basic capabilities such as using a mouse to access multitiered menus.
It's important to know the technical standards and regulations set forth in Section 508. For example, software applications cannot disable accessible features, visual focus must be obvious, developers must make sufficient information about their software applications available to assistive technologies (such as screen readers and hearing aids), and developers should provide methods that allow users to skip repetitive navigation links.