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5 Things Your Bank Needs to Know About 508 Compliance

Posted by Justin Smorawske on Nov 10, 2017 1:24:42 PM

Woman using a color contrast checker to confirm her website's 508 compliance

As a business with a web presence, accessibility should be an important consideration for your customer base. In fact, 508 compliance will soon be a requirement for business entities that receive or sell funds from agencies of the federal government—as early as January 2018.

So what are some of the basic starting points for making your bank website more compliant? Here are five things to get you started.

Screen Readers

The first key thing you should know about when venturing into 508 compliance is screen-reading technology. Blind and low-vision users often use screen readers, which read aloud your website's content or translates it into braille. A screen reader is tasked with interpreting a given page's content—and the way you set up and code your pages determines how accurate of a read the device is able to provide its end user.

Check out this video demo of what the experience of a screen reader is like for a little extra insight:

Color Contrast

One key element of getting your website 508 compliant is ensuring your color palette has the proper level of contrast for readability. A ratio of 4.5:1 is required of sites so that those with low vision are able to digest your web content. This ratio can be tricky to navigate without use of a color checker—this tool from GitHub is a great way to test out your proposed color palette, whether you're building a brand-new site or evaluating your current one.

Image Alt Text

The alt tags in the images across your website are also key to successfully making yourself 508 compliant. These tags offer blind or low-vision users the ability to hear a description of the subject of a given image. Remember that just having alt tags period isn't enough. Your text should be as descriptive as possible. "Man walking dog" isn't as descriptive as, say, "Young man in red shirt walking pug across street during daytime." Try to really paint a picture with your imagery.

Descriptive Text Links

Text links are typically riddled with "click here" and "learn more." (We've all been there.) But screen readers also rely on linked text in website content to indicate more clearly the destination of said links. Don't lean too much on generic text, but instead opt for specificity. Instead of "click here," try "click here to download our 508 compliance guide."

Pro tip: Text links can also trip up screen readers when the same linked text directs to varying destinations. Two "click here" hyperlinks on a given page that direct to two different places can make it more difficult to interpret your site content.

Header Hierarchy

When plugging in page content, it's easy to rest on manually changing text size and simply bolding headers to break up text. However, screen readers often rely on header tags to indicate to a user when content is meant to be deciphered as headers. Make sure your pages use stylized <h1> and <h2> tags instead of manually formatted text.

Just the Beginning

These are just jumping-off points in your 508 compliance journey—to ensure you've gained total compliance with requirements, engage with a third-party provider who can advise on auditing and improving your site.

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