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Designing Accessible Websites

Laws and Guidelines

May 1999 - the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization that sets standards for the Web, approved recommendations for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.

June 2001- the US Government's Section 508 standards become effective for all federal agencies and entities operating federal contracts. Section 508 requires that Federal agencies' electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities.

June 2002 - the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) published Section S206 on Accessibility and Usability of Institutions of Higher Education Web Sites

2002 - The University of Texas at Tyler published a Web Accessibility Policy to establish a minimum accessibility standard for web pages.

September 2005 - Texas House Bill 2819 requires state agencies to develop, procure, maintain and use electronic and information technology that is accessible to people with disabilities.

December 2008 - Web Content Accessibility Guideline 2.0 is finalized.

Standards for Measuring Accessibility

There are three recognized standards for measuring accessibility.

  1. Section 508 Standards
  2. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG)
  3. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) 

We recommend using the section 508 standard for the following reasons:

  • Experience: 508 was developed after WCAG 1.0 and highlights the most critical accessibility checkpoints.
  • Measurable: 508 standards developed to be objective and measurable making it easier to test and comply.
  • Shorter: 508 has 16 checkpoints. WCAG 1.0 has over 60. WCAG 2.0 is so new not many automated tools are available to test for it yet. Section 508 is being rewritten to harmonize with WCAG 2.0 Level 1.

What about WCAG 2.0?

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) are still very useful. Watch closely for the 508 guidelines to be refreshed to harmonize with WCAG 2.0 in 2010 or 2011. It is likely that the WCAG 2.0 Level 1 guidelines will highly compliment the 508 Refreshed Standards and that WCAG 2.0 Level 2 & 3 will be the chosen accessibility standard beyond the minimum requirement.

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