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February 2011

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Resources for Section 508 Compliance and Accessibility

Posted 2/14/2011 7:59:35 AM by Mark Reichard

I wanted to share two quick resources for testing your pages for accessibility and compliance with Section 508 of the US Federal Rehabilitation Act.  If you are unfamiliar with Section 508, it mandates that the Web sites of US Federal Government Agencies remove barriers in their electronic communications that would prevent disabled people from accessing those communications.  More information is available here, and the US Government's Section 508 Web site is available here.

One question you may have is whether Section 508 applies to you if you don't develop sites for the US Government.  There are several reasons that building accessible sites is good practice.  First, it is the right thing to do.  Thought of another way, when you build accessible sites, you are choosing not to build barriers that exclude people based on their differences.  We recognize that excluding people based on their differences is wrong in employment, building design, availability of services and many other fields.  Web accessibility is just a logical extension of that recognition.

Section 508 is also being understood to apply to more than just Federal Agency Web sites.  Many city and county governments are specifying that their Web sites must be 508 compliant, and even agencies that receive federal funds are doing so.  Getting into the habit of building accessible sites is a good idea for Web developers because they may have to do so on any government funded project.

Finally, sites that work well with screen reader technology tend to also be quite readable to other devices outside the normal desktop computer world, specifically Internet search engine spiders and mobile devices.  This means that by building an accessible site, you are not only doing the right thing, you will also likely benefit from better search engine results and your site will work better with mobile devices.

So, the tools that I wanted to recommend are:

AChecker: an online accessibility checker funded by the government of Ontario.  The tool is available here and information about it is here.

Cynthia Says:  a on online tool offered through a collaboration between the International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet and HiSoftware.  The tool is available here.

One note about these tools.  As we've been going through our site and checking for 508 compliance, we've found that the two tools frequently disagree.  Cynthia Says allows for some workarounds that AChecker does not.  This seems to be because Cynthia Says is targeted specifically at 508 compliance, so keep that in mind when you review the results.  Also, one caution --- you may find that you need to be careful with content from external sources.  One area where we still have work to do is our blog, specifically where we include markup from SlideShare.   Be aware that sometimes you will need to tweak content that you get from an external service.

Tags: Content ManagementComments


comScore 12/2010 Report: Welcome to the Mobile World

Posted 2/7/2011 9:29:10 PM by Mark Reichard

comScore released their report on Mobile device market share today (2/7/2011) for the 3 months ended December 2010, and two points about the report are striking. First, for those who have been following the Android v. iPhone battle (which now even includes a Super Bowl ad), it is notable that the market share of iOS devices was basically flat, while Android devices are up 7.3% --- surpassing iPhones for the first time to reach 28.7% of the market.  At the same time, RIM (makers of BlackBerry devices and still -- for now --- the leading maker of smart phones) saw their share fall by 5.7%.  People have been saying for a while that RIM was in trouble, based on survey data showing that most Blackberry users really would rather have an iPhone, but at this point it looks like Android has been picking up the market share lost by RIM.  Of course, with the Verizon iPhone entering the picture, things may swing decisively back Apple's way.  In any case, it looks like for now Android and iOS devices will continue to battle for dominance while RIM loses share.

The other striking point about comScore's report was the sheer market penetration of smart phones.  More than 63 million people in the US currently own smart phones --- up 60% from a year ago.  At this rate of smart phone growth --- and with lots of new tablet devices coming out in 2011, it's time to be thinking hard about mobile apps and/or a mobile Web site if you have not already done so.     


Tags: Android, iPhoneComments