The Wild West of Section 508 Compliance — Braille Works

Braille Works
3 min readSep 14, 2023
Wild west of Section 508 displayed over a wild west background scene.

Howdy, partner! Finding a Section 508 compliance vendor is much like navigating the Wild West.

You can look at a company’s website that looks amazing. It appears as if they know exactly what they’re doing. They have all the right buzzwords, like Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG), and mention a certificate of compliance.

But they don’t do it. Many vendors don’t actually make documents Section 508 compliant.

Much like the unpredictable and lawless terrain of the Wild West, the world of digital accessibility can be challenging to navigate. It’s an arena where appearances can be deceiving, and the lack of consistent standards can create a sense of disorder.

In this unpredictable environment, finding a reliable vendor who can genuinely deliver Section 508 compliance can feel akin to searching for gold in them thar hills.

There’s a lack of regulation.

While the Wild West has its appointed sheriff scouting the area, no authoritative entity keeps 508 compliance vendors in line.

Darn tootin’! Any company can boldly claim that they offer Section 508 training and certification without fully understanding the law. There’s no actual governing body saying, “This company knows how to remediate documents properly.”

This situation poses a significant challenge because Section 508 references WCAG standards, which provide meticulous guidelines for tagging documents to achieve 508 compliance.

Accessibility checkers won’t help.

“But I have an accessibility checker report saying my document is compliant.” Sorry, cowboy, that dog won’t hunt.

Automated testing can only go so far without manual remediation. Although accessibility checkers can determine if a PDF document has tags, they cannot tell if the tags are correct. An image could be tagged, but a manual check shows if it’s properly tagged as an “image” or incorrectly tagged as a “paragraph.”

That means documents can be tagged in a way that makes ’em seem compliant when they’re not. Many times, these documents aren’t accessible at all. It’s like putting lipstick on a hog and calling it a debutante.

The limitations of accessibility checkers are not worth the potential standoff with the law.

Be on the lookout for common issues.

It’s the Wild West, and you can’t trust a shiny facade. Some vendors talk the talk, referencing WCAG standards and all the bells and whistles like tables, charts, alt text, and forms. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty stuff like color contrast or live links, they’re as useful as a snake’s rattle in a sandstorm.

  • Incorrect tagging — Some vendors will slap on a “paragraph” tag, run an accessibility checker report, and hand back a document you think is compliant. Not only does that fail to make the document accessible, it also leaves the user as lost as a tumbleweed in a dust storm.
  • Lack of manual checking — WCAG standards require a human touch, and most vendors don’t want to break a sweat. Automated accessibility checkers can’t catch complex issues, like incorrect website links, that a person can.
  • Outsourcing — Some vendors take heaps of documents, claim they’ll make ’em compliant, and then ship ’em overseas for a quick fix. Or, the latest trick is setting up their server in the U.S., and overseas resources log in to do the work. On a purely technical level, the work is being done in the U.S., but there ain’t a single U.S. citizen doing the work.

Your neck’s on the line.

Here’s another nugget of wisdom: You’re responsible for those documents being compliant.

What in tarnation does that mean? If you buy cheap document remediation and post those documents on your website, you — not your vendor — are held responsible if they aren’t accessible.

So, while you may have recourse with your vendor, any fines or negative publicity will be associated with your name, not theirs.

That’s why it’s so critical for you to choose wisely when picking a 508 compliance vendor.

You can spot the outlaws. Discover how in our blog post.

This post was written by Braille Works

Originally published at https://brailleworks.com on September 14, 2023.

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Braille Works

Providing ADA compliant materials for your customers. Braille, Large Print, Audio & Accessible PDF Services. https://brailleworks.com/