The conditions of the past year have made everyone more reliant on digital experiences. With this shift, the demand for accessible online applications has accelerated, including the public sector.
For federal agencies, Section 508 requires websites and other digital information like apps accessible to people with disabilities.
Compliance with Section 508 can be a big challenge. But, with the right accessibility strategy, your digital presence can be brought up to compliance standards in no time.
In this post, we’re going to look at how to create a 508-compliant digital experience quickly, focusing on a case study from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Prefer a video on 508 compliance?
Watch this on-demand webinar with Skuid, UsableNet, and the VA as they discuss how the VA.gov team was able to quickly deliver online citizen and employee-facing apps that are usable, inclusive, and comply with section 508.
How to Start Your digital Accessibility Initiative
When you start your accessibility journey, it’s helpful to remember that accessibility truly improves everyone’s user experience; the disability community represents a large portion of users engaged in the public sector.
It’s also the law. The Federal Section 508 requires digital accessibility, as does the ADA and state laws like California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.
Make sure that you’re starting from the top. You want to have your leaders agree with the mission and be enthusiastic about buying in. This means allocating resources, even if there are resource constraints, so you can build accessibility upfront.
How The VA solved compliance issues in a critical app
While it’s helpful to discuss best practices and have a roadmap, sometimes there’s nothing more useful than seeing how companies before you have done the same task.
Skuid, a productivity solutions company, recently helped the VA develop a 508-compliant application that made all users happy in six months that previously wasn’t usable by blind or low-sight users.
The Veterans Affairs had a business-critical application for time tracking and reporting that was used by about 18,000 users. In 2020, the VA learned that its app, the Work and Time Reporting System (WATRS), didn’t adhere to certain 508 accessibility requirements.
The VA had to focus on different grids with enormous amounts of custom code. This allowed them to leverage point solutions around “grids” in an attempt to meet compliance standards.
Despite this, the app still wasn’t 508-Compliant. The VA was struggling to establish remediation timelines. The VA.gov team takes digital accessibility seriously. They knew something had to be done fast.
The Building Stage
Skuid helped the VA face the challenge head-on, working with the VA to completely revamp the tool. It took 300 hours of development time, and 99% of it didn’t require specialized coding.
They started by focusing on creating an accessible tool at the foundation of the building. This made it much easier to do as they developed and refined the application.
Within 6 months of when development started, the app launched, and it either met or exceeded all major 508-compliance gaps to mitigate the complaints and the pending lawsuit.
There was a tight remediation timeline for the rest of the 508-compliance findings, but this brought the company’s time entry tool up to standards exceptionally quickly.
There was now an exceptional user experience, more functionality than before, and it was build so that more iterations could easily be added for future needs down the line. Blind and other users from the disability community could now complete their essential job tasks, and all users raved about the new system.
accessibility improves the experience for everyone
Achieving and maintaining digital accessibility standards doesn’t have to be complicated.
The VA was able to quickly address the 508-compliance issues on its app and found that the improved accessibility created a more positive experience for all users.
The VA was also able to future-proof their organization for 508 compliance.
Once your site and app are up you still monitor and maintain digital accessibility. Use a combination of automated, guided, and manual testing to ensure your digital presence is accessible to all.
Need help improving the accessibility of your website or app?
UsableNet has 20 years of experience in digital accessibility. Explore how our digital accessibility experts, solutions, and services can help.