Dissemination Toolkit: Accessible Products & Communications

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Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was amended in 1988 to require federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. Projects funded by the National Science Foundation should be 508 compliant to increase equal access to materials.

General Resources

Section 508 Requirements and Responsibilities
Section508.gov explains the law and provides guidance and examples of best practices.

Additional Accessibility Resources
The University of Washington's DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center offers resources to make educational settings and tools accessible.

AI Tools for Accessibility

Every day, more and more AI tools are being developed. Several show promising applications for improving accessibility. A few examples of how tools are being used are shared in this Hand Talk blog, Impacts of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on Web Accessibility. Due to the fast pace of this emerging field, we will not list potential tools in this toolkit, but encourage you to explore current options.

Video Compliance

Add closed captioning to videos for viewers who can't listen to the audio because they are hearing impaired or in a setting where they cannot play sound. This article outlines 4 reasons why closed captioning is important for every video. 

  • YouTube offers automatic captioning. Note: It's important to edit the automatic captioning for typos and punctuation. Without punctuation screenreaders will read the closed captioning as one sentence.
  • If your video is posted on YouTube or Vimeo, you can use captioning programs such as (free) Amara to add captions to your video. Find tutorial videos on YouTube.

Webinar Compliance

COVID-19 made virtual meetings the norm. Find tips on making your meetings more inclusive in this article, 9 Easy Ways to Make Your Webinar Accessible.  If you would like to caption your webinar in real time, companies such as CaptionFirst offer this service for a fee. Some webinar platforms, such as Zoom, are offering AI assistants (ex. Otter.ai) to record and transcribe the meeting.

Website Compliance

You can make your website more accessible by making hyperlink text descriptive, captioning and transcribing audio (including using ALT tags), using a NULL value for unimportant graphics, and using frames sparingly, to name a few examples. Washington University's DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center has a great overview of how to make your website accessible. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) offers accessibility guidelines and support materials, including a guide to understanding and using Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides a checklist to evaluate the accessibility of your Web Sites, Web Applications & Software.

WebAIM offers resources and tools for web accessibility, including a Contrast Checker tool to test color contrast compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Document Compliance

There are many ways to make documents more accessible. In addition to the advice on the Section 508 website, this information may be helpful:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides checklists to help you evaluate whether your documents are accessible: