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#372: Make Sure Your Consulting Products Are Section 508 Accessible

Posted By Mark Haas CMC , FIMC, Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Our client just told us all our products needed to be Section 508 compliant. I know this is a government requirement, but is this really necessary for non-public work products?

Section 508 refers to a provision of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that requires federal agencies (and their consultants providing work products to be used as federal products) to make their online information accessible to people with disabilities. This makes sure information is provided in a form that everyone can use and benefit from. Legally, you are likely not required to deliver section 508 compliant work products for private sector clients.

However, as consultants, we are professionally obligated to maximize the access, use, and understanding of our work products, regardless of the client. Making your work products Section 508 compliant not only assures access, it is a "good (if not best) practice" and a valuable standard by which you can improve their consistency and quality. This is not just the law, and not just a good idea, but a way to improve the usability of your products for the potentially millions of people who might eventually use your work products or derivatives (e.g., that piece of text, chart or web page your client repurposes to the public). It’s the right thing to do.

The Section 508 guidelines address page layout and formatting, fonts, page and document numbering, images, tables, video captioning, HTML and CSS formatting, web page linking formats, etc. These apply to word processing, spreadsheet, webpage, multimedia, presentation. Some very good resources such as checklists are available.

Tip: Compare the Section 508 guidelines with your own company's document creation and publication guidelines. Oh, you don't have quality assurance standards for your communications? Here is a good and rigorously developed start to enhancing your consulting value and professionalism. A good place to get the basics is http://www.section508.gov/ (fully qualified URLs are a Section 508 good practice).

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  information management  professionalism  quality  regulation  Section 508  usability  website  writing 

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