Calling All Librarians
If you’re a fully-functioning library in 2021, you’ve probably heard of the term “website accessibility” more than once. And more importantly, you understand the necessity for its inclusive practice.
In 2020, the School Library Journal reported that more than 2,200 web accessibility lawsuit cases were filed in federal court in 2018. This year, the publication Software Development Times disclosed that these digital accessibility lawsuits increased by twenty-three percent in March, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past seven months as the world has begun to reacclimate to a sense of normalcy, these numbers have continued to rise to over fifty percent and show no intention of slowing down.
If you’re reading this and have made it this far, we have to ask:
Is your library’s online platform and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) 508 compliant?
If you’re not sure, don’t know what 508 compliance is, or need some assistance with user-friendly website development, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered, LocalHop style. Keep reading to get some helpful tips, recommendations, and service options to prevent your library from turning into a percentage stat.
A 508 Overview
On January eighteenth of 2017, the U.S. Access Board updated the accessibility requirements for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in American libraries. Under this law, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Office of Government-wide Policy (OGP) is entrusted to provide technical assistance to Federal agencies so they comply with these statutes and ensure that covered ICT is accessible to, and functional for individuals with disabilities. So, what does this mean, exactly? And perhaps the biggest question of all: how does this affect your library?
Let us break it down for you.
What exactly is Section 508? Initially, it was strictly referred to as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which required access to programs and activities that are funded by Federal agencies and to Federal employment. But, in 2017, Section 508 was developed as an amendment to that act which declared all ICT that is used in Federal establishments such as libraries must be developed, procured, maintained, and easily accessible for employees and individuals with disabilities.
Accessibility Standards and Procedures
The main thing to remember is that the 508 compliance requirements have been updated to provide clarity on two types of electronic components, and how they must work together to increase accessibility for individuals with disabilities. The first component is technologies already within your library such as software, digital platforms, web browsers, and operating systems. The second component is assistive technology, AKA the tools that help users with disabilities access your technology. Assistive technology are things like screen readers, speech recognition, and screen magnifiers, which, when integrated into your library’s technology, will boost user-friendly connectivity and make your community thrive.
The newest updates to Section 508 also instruct that all variations of public facing content (any sort of web interface that is available to the general public), as well as certain non-public facing content, also needs to be accessible to employees and users with disabilities. This is important to note because under previous variations of Section 508, this information (and whether or not it was covered) was never fully disclosed.
Advice From Librarians, to Librarians
Of course, it’s crucial to understand that the term “disability” is not singularly defined as a sole classification of conditions. The American Library Association states that there are four major categories of disability types, which are as follows:
- Hearing: Deafness or hard of hearing (conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, mixed hearing loss)
- Cognitive: Learning impairments such as auditory processing disorder, inability to focus or retain information that is being stated
- Visual: Blindness, color-blindness, low levels of visibility, dyslexia, visual agnosia, etc.
- Motor: Difficulty or inability to use a mouse or keyboard, minimal fine motor control, slow response times, has fatigue when using a computer
Each disability type will most certainly require specific adaptations within the new designs of your web content and electronic services, but accessibility is priceless.
Being one of the most reliable and reputable organizations in the country when it comes to library methodology and procedure, ALA has some great words of wisdom to share. From librarians to librarians, here are some helpful suggestions when adapting your technology and digital platforms to be 508 compliant:
- Using web-based resources is ubiquitous in many parts of life, but ESPECIALLY in libraries. Make sure your library is always up to date with the latest requirements!
- While Section 508 is only applicable to the Federal government and relative agencies, these provisions have been embraced by many school, public, and academic libraries as a functional requirement for website design, so it’s absolutely something to consider.
With these suggestions in mind, ALA also recommends:
- That all libraries purchasing, procuring, using, maintaining and contracting for electronic resources and services require vendors to guarantee that products and services comply with Section 508 regulations, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, or other applicable accessibility standards and guidelines; and
- That all libraries purchasing, procuring, and contracting for electronic resources and services ensure, through their own testing protocols or by requiring vendor guarantees, that electronic products and services have been fully tested and found to be in compliance with applicable accessibility regulations, guidelines, and criteria; and
- That funding authorities, including private institutions, the federal government and state and local governments, provide adequate funding to allow all libraries purchasing, procuring, and contracting for electronic resources and services the ability to comply with accepted standards and laws of accessibility for people with disabilities.
Section 508 compliance can be quite daunting at first, but understanding the rules for this amendment is critical for school and local librarians to help their communities flourish.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Thinking About Conformance
When thinking in terms of revamping your digital platforms and assistive technologies, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself:
- Is the application developed in a way that meets the needs of Section 508 in the relevant standards?
- Can potential users with disabilities access the application and complete the necessary tasks with relative ease?
- Does the application create an accessible experience?
- Does the information, support, amenities, and database showcase an accessible experience for users with disabilities?
- How many individuals have expressed concern over this application? Have we made adaptations based on these concerns?
If you’ve recently renovated your technology and digital platforms to be 508 compliant, but you’re still not sure if it’s one-hundred percent accessible, Google Developers have created a tool that will improve the quality of your web pages. Lighthouse Testing can be run against any web page, regardless if it’s public or needs authentication. Wondering what it does? Check it out:
- Can be run in Chrome DevTools, from the command line, or as a Node module
- Audits for performance accessibility, progressive web applications, SEO, and more, which will generate a report on how well the page did
- After the performance evaluation, the failing audits can be used as indicators and recommend how to improve your page
- The failing audits from performance evaluations has a reference document which details why the audit is important, as well as how it can be fixed
Still with us? Good, because this is where we come in. LocalHop is one hundred percent 508 compliant, and the best part? We can help you get to one hundred percent, too.
How LocalHop Can Help
LocalHop’s custom website services provide a modern, 508-friendly website solution that is both aesthetically pleasing and secure. Our service includes design templates, creative brainstorming, hosting, data migration, and personalized support for you and your library, enabling you to focus on your patrons and the services that they enjoy. LocalHop also offers security and reliability to all of our organizations with Integrated Library System (ILS) integration.
Arming our libraries with constructive input, there are no barriers or bounds when it comes to ensuring 508 compliance for your community. Take your library’s digital development to the next level with LocalHop; Let us do the work so you can reap the rewards.
Want to learn more about LocalHop, Section 508, or other ways you can further develop your technology’s accessibility? Here are some helpful resources that were used in this article, all in one place at your convenience:
- Software Development Times
- S. Access Board
- Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
- General Services Administration (GSA) Office of Government-wide Policy (OGP)
- Section 508
- Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Assistive Technology
- Public Facing Content
- Non-Public Facing Content
- American Library Association
- Types of Hearing Impairment
- Types of Visual Impairment
- Types of Cognitive Disabilities
- Types of Motor Disabilities
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0
- Google Developers
- Lighthouse Testing
- Chrome DevTools
- Node Module