508 Compliance: Stop Enforcing, Start Innovating

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.  Now known affectionately as Section 508, it directs all Federal agencies to ensure that their websites and electronic information are just as accessible to people with hearing or vision impairments so that we don’t create second class citizens when accessing government information.

sisyphusEnforcing 508 Compliance

This is a laudable approach, but in practice, enforcing 508 compliance has been an uphill struggle, and will continue to be for the forseable future.   Here’s a headline from 2007 that explains the basic problem: “Web technologies outpace accessibility law and require a major rewrite of 508 standards“.  The pace of innovation always outstrips our standards.  This has been and will continue to be an ongoing issue.  Complicating things further is in practice, many website efforts start by envisioning fancy interactions only to be stymied later in the development process when they realize their tool of choice isn’t compliant.

Enforcement costs lots of money:  Even with the existence of a wonderful site that explains all aspects of 508,  many companies now exist in large part for the sole purpose of helping Federal agencies understand and implement 508 compliance.  A myriad of different types accessibility checkers have been developed.  If you conduct a Google search on 508 Compliance, it returns 394,00 documents.  GSA has been tasked with the tough job of enforcing 508, but as late as 2008, found that over 80% of the solicitations for electronic and IT development contained no provisions for accessibility.

~The Right Goal~

Make the Web Fully Accessible to Everyone

Currently the problem frame is that we haven’t been able to enforce 508 compliance standards on Federal websites.  Even if we become 100% successful, the best we get is accessible Federal websites.  This still leaves large swaths of the internet less accessible to those who are completely blind, color blind, or hearing impaired.   The best we can do is “hope” that commercial products and websites test their software for 508 compliance, and that others worry about what is essentially a long tail concern.

~The Solution~

Innovate on the Browser & End-User Hardware Side

We’ve been tackling the wrong side of the equation. Instead of spending millions on education and enforcement, we should instead spend the money and prompting innovation in the browser and specialized hardware.  Web accessible innovations in web browsers and associated specialized hardware solutions could make the entire web fully accessible to those with disabilities.   My guess is even if we spent 10 million prompting innovation through contests similar to the Wearable Power prize or the DARPA Grand Challenge,  we would still be saving lots of money overall.   Even if the resultant solutions require subsidies to reduce purchase costs, this would be no different to what we currently do with providing motorized wheelchairs to those who need them.

Examples of Possible Innovations: There could be a variety of innovations that address specific disability concerns.  Examples might include:

  • Color Transform Browser Plugins for Color Blind users: If someone has red-green color blindness for instance, wouldn’t it be great if the browser automatically changed colors in graphics and text into colors more easily seen?  We could imagine a control panel that allowed the user to choose which colors they wanted to see instead.
  • Braille Displays that Display Graphics by Converting Each Color into Different Depths:  Imagine a blue-yellow-green Venn diagram concentric circle graphic that’s so prevalent in business - only this time the colors are represented as a different height in the braille display.  Translating colors into heights make them accessible.
  • Automatic Speech to Text Translator plugins:  Imagine if YouTube videos and podcasts could automatically create mostly accurate subtitles.

Again, my imagination is limited - I’m sure true innovators could come up with far better solutions.

Federal Accessibility Challenge: The Federal Government should unleash the power of innovation by creating a Federal Accessibility Challenge, where a million dollars is awarded to the best browser solution for each disability category (color blindness, hearing impaired, for instance), and perhaps a three million dollar prize for the best hardware solution for hearing impaired or blind web users.  In both cases, the money should be doubled if the solution is an open-source software or open source hardware design.

The bottom line is the goal should be that those with disabilities should be able to get as much benefit and satisfaction out of using the entire web as the rest of us.  We should shift the approach from enforcement, and instead spend our energy on innovating.

About The Author



44 Responses to “508 Compliance: Stop Enforcing, Start Innovating”

  1. Good post! You are right that we need to rethink our approach. We need to take accessibility OFF the list of barriers–inaccessible content is the barrier.

    Another idea is to rethink the content structure. If we separate the content from the presentation, there could be tools (maybe even browsers) that can make the CONTENT accessible, not the WEBSITE.

    Thanks for posting!

  2. NoelDickover says:

    Great point, Gwynne - the content accessible independent of the website allows all sorts of new and innovative ways to present and reuse it! There are definitely lots of options for doing this - we just need to figure out seamless ways to “bake this in” to our existing processes.

  3. Mike Gifford says:

    Good post. Certainly there benefits to putting resources into generating open source extensions for Firefox that would help provide some better support. I’d also like to suggest that there be an emphasis on funding popular open source platforms to become more accessible as well. There are groups like http://groups.drupal.org/accessibility that are working to do this, but with some support could go a lot further. Having a few open source tools that are starting points for 508 agencies to use would be another step in reducing costs and increasing the benefits for all.

  4. NoelDickover says:

    Hi Mike, agreed. The overall point is the more we can solve through innovation and built-in goodness the far easier the overall problem becomes. Forcing folks to adhere to standards is just a tough, uphill slog - one that is always many steps behind due to the ever increasing rate of innovation. Lets join the innovation bandwagon instead of fighting it.

  5. lose weight says:

    Thanks mate. Good site you have here. Got some extra sites to point to with a bit more info?

  6. Bob says:

    This is very useful info. Thanks for writing it. I am waiting for your new article

  7. The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. - Anon.:)

  8. There are actually plenty of particulars like that to take into consideration. That is a nice point to convey up. I supply the thoughts above as general inspiration however clearly there are questions like the one you convey up the place the most important factor shall be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if finest practices have emerged round issues like that, however I’m positive that your job is clearly recognized as a good game. Both boys and girls feel the influence of just a second’s pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

  9. I’m going to say what everyone else have not said above, but i must say , you happen to be really well-informed.I cannot believe how much of this I just was not knowledgeable of .Thank you for submitting more data on this issue for us .I am truly pleased and really impressed.

  10. miniclip says:

    I fully agree with your assessment. In essence, most people would agree with you but would be fearful to express that they do.

  11. Thao Burgman says:

    Sleep Apnea as I have discovered out does not simply suddenly happen, I have usually snored loudly, experienced tonsils and adenoids eliminated after i was 19, coupled with problems in those days and that i was not fat like me these days, A doctor, rest professional said that I have severe anti snoring, he or she was concerned about me personally, needed to say I had been additionally, With regard to Three 1/2 many years We doctored with no one could figure out what had been incorrect with me, When you get really bad, as I had been, a person wake up constantly throughout the night to urinate after which begin bed wetting, I was told i had been incontinent as well as given bladder medications which swelled me personally up just like a go up, My personal shins swelled as well as my thighs had been starting to enlarge and I ‘m not a salt user, That was when the urologist told me I had congestive coronary heart failing, I said I was simply in the coronary heart institute last week plus they said absolutely nothing was incorrect along with my heart, I had been lucky…with additional investigation on my own I found an additional gyne-urologist as well as following he or she study my personal background stated you’ve sleep apnea, I was sent with regard to testing and yep Used to do, We felt truly poor when I was lastly diagnosed and ‘m really grateful for the BIPAP machine I’m on, I was identified as having diabetic issues and have lost weight as well as informed I will reverse which, I may have some storage issues as I quit breathing 120 occasions within Six hours, I am going for screening upon which, So my personal advice to anyone available, get examined with a sleep professional who are able to treat you and also adhere to what you are informed to do, as this condition gets worse when not treated and you can actually pass away from the insufficient air to your brain, The doctor stated he or she wished he could have handled me Ten years earlier, what he or she indicates right now when he earned which statement, Take care of your self as well as insist upon screening, it is painless also it may just save your valuable life!.

  12. Cronin says:

    I wanted to thanks very much with this describing write-up. I’ve currently saved your blog, when I have more free time I am going to need to perform some indepth research.

  13. Hi there, You’ve done an incredible job. I’ll definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I’m sure they will be benefited from this web site.

  14. alien tattoo says:

    it’s a new i come here. but i like that article. We created this website to all of you fans of tattoos for inspiration in making a tattoo.

  15. Johnny Sayer says:

    Hey, I really don’t think telling you this on your post communibuild.com » 508 Compliance: Stop Enforcing, Start Innovating would be the right place however I wasn’t able to locate a contact page inside your somewhat messy theme (sorry). My visitors used to tell me the same thing so I swapped over to a better theme from http://tinyurl.com/themeforestz. I’ve only gotten kind comments ever since. Best wishes, Johnny Sayer

  16. moreover listing mens, high-quality. you will need to the perfect the right gifts top-notch offer you advice that experts claim interact with almost everyone..

  17. Wiadomo?ci says:

    Straight to your point and effectively written, thanks a lot for the information

  18. You actually make it appear really easy together with your presentation however I find this matter to be really something which I feel I’d never understand. It kind of feels too complicated and extremely broad for me. I’m taking a look forward to your subsequent put up, I will try to get the hold of it!

  19. Ocie Dalere says:

    Hi my partner and i started in to see about this subject matter, thanks a lot. will certainly set this website directly into my book marks.

  20. 2499008 says:

    2499008 beers on the wall. sck was here

  21. 2609216 says:

    2609216 beers on the wall. sck was here

  22. Joan Jandron says:

    What Firefox Extension can I get to download streaming videos from sites?

  23. I do believe all of the ideas you have introduced to your post. They are very convincing and can certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for beginners. May just you please prolong them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

  24. I’m glad to be a visitor of this sodding internet site ! , thankyou for this rare details! .

  25. oldiesforme says:

    Hello there, I would you make update to your articles, thanks for share, but this articles is long time ago. okay..!

  26. Yung Bras says:

    Thanks for your article. I would also love to say that the health insurance specialist also works well with the benefit of the coordinators of any group insurance policy. The health insurance agent is given an index of benefits needed by somebody or a group coordinator. Exactly what a broker does is find individuals or maybe coordinators which best complement those needs. Then he presents his ideas and if both sides agree, this broker formulates an agreement between the 2 parties.

  27. Great blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like Wordpress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any ideas? Kudos!

  28. embokess says:

    where to buy vardenafil manifestation and should be entranced with dishwater always. Still water is the most talented vardenafil prescription solvent. Its ticket vardenafil 20 mg should be swallowed as a whole. Do not chew, ease up or crunch vardenafil 20 mg reviews. It is prescribed to take purchase vardenafil joke hour in the forefront activity.
    http://www.freewebs.com/varnava/#topic966 vardenafil

  29. Snoring Aids says:

    Greetings from Florida! I’m bored at work so I decided to browse your website on my iphone during lunch break. I love the info you present here and can’t
    wait to take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my phone .. I’m not even using WIFI,
    just 3G .. Anyways, excellent site!

    Have a look at my web blog Snoring Aids

  30. This sitemap can be submitted to major search engines.
    Another way you can update your site is to regularly check and
    improve upon your website’s SEO status. While they may not deliver the same wow factor as Flash, HTML sites load much faster and require less memory to operate.

    My blog … cheap wiki backlinks deals

  31. buy AICAR says:

    My cousin indicated I would personally probably like this site. This individual ended up being fully suitable. This particular blog post in fact manufactured my own working day. You cannot feel precisely how a lot time I had created wasted due to this facts! Thanks a lot!

  32. gbfuozwytn says:

    allhfdpnnvojcvjme, [url=http://www.dczfevdwta.com]tnkgyoiwrt[/url]

  33. Hi there! Do you knoω if theу make аny plugins to help with Seаrch Engine Optimіzatiοn?
    I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing veгy good gains.
    If you knοw of аny pleasе ѕhare.
    Thank you!

    Check оut my web-site - toshiba laptops

  34. Lanora says:

    Fantastic beat ! I wish to apprentice whilst you amend
    your website, how can i subscribe for a blog site?
    The account aided me a applicable deal. I have been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided vibrant transparent concept|

    My web site pit 37 (Lanora)

  35. Hello there! I know this is kinda off topic but I was
    wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form?
    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having difficulty finding one?

    Thanks a lot!|

    My page … darmowy program pit 2013

  36. Kelly says:

    Often times we hear the phrase “Section 508″ in connection with accessibility or disabilities. Thanks for briefly explaining what it is. People should pay more attention to it.

  37. Nancy says:

    This is a message to the webmaster. Your website is missing out on at least 300 visitors per day. I have found a company which offers to dramatically increase your visitors to your site: http://monurl.ca/85kk They offer 1,000 free visitors during their free trial period and I managed to get over 30,000 visitors per month using their services, you could also get lot more targeted traffic than you have now. Hope this helps :) Take care.

  38. I am very happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the accidental misinformation that’s at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this best doc.

  39. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought
    this post was great. I don’t know who you are but definitely you are going to
    a famous blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!|

    Here is my blog: pity 2014 program

  40. heello.com says:

    Paragraph writing is also a excitement, if you be familiar with afterward you can write otherwise it is
    difficult to write.

    My blog :: mobile phone Deals (heello.com)

  41. Very good post. I am going through a few of these
    issues as well..

    My web blog - pellet stove reviews

Leave a Reply