Section 508 Compliance Testing for Websites

This quick guide will help you understand how to make your website Section 508 compliant.

The Law

Section 508 (29 U.S.C. § 794d) is an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act that requires the federal government procure, maintain and use information and communications technology (ICT) that is accessible to people with disabilities.

ICT includes online training, PDFs, websites, mobile apps, and software, among other electronic technology including hardware such as computers.

In a 2017 refresh, the U.S. Access Board published a final rule updating accessibility requirements to incorporate the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA:

“For Section 508-covered ICT, all covered Web and non-Web content and software—including, for example, Web sites, intranets, word processing documents, portable document format documents, and project management software” to conform with WCAG 2.0 AA.

Although WCAG 2.1 AA is not currently we required, I recommend integrating this standard into any testing, development, and/or remediation.

Accounting for 2.1 AA is a best practice and highly advantageous as you will go above and beyond the minimum current standards and be in compliance when and if 2.1 AA is included in a future amendment.

WCAG 2.0 AA vs. 2.1 AA Difference

WCAG 2.0 AA has 38 success criteria.  2.1 includes all of 2.0 AA’s 38 success criteria but adds 12 additional to bring the total to 50.

In effect, 2.1 works on top of 2.0; nothing has been undone with 2.0.

Website Conformance

Whether you’re creating a new website or remediating an existing one, have an expert developer incorporate all of WCAG 2.0 (or 2.1) AA success criteria.


There are three primary initial testing components to ensure your website is conformant with WCAG success criteria and thus compliant with Section 508.

Automated Scans

Automated scans are tremendously helpful as you begin testing.  They instantly catch and flag about 25% of accessibility issues, reducing human error in audits and speeding up the time of an audit.

A handful of the issues scans catch are critical for accessibility.

Besides the 25% limitation, one weakness of scans is they can issue false negatives, thus clearing your website of a particular issue that still remains.

All scans need human review.

Manual Audits

Manual audits involved experts in accessibility examining all primary URLs and screens on your website and accounting for all WCAG success criteria.

If any issues are found where elements/components/content are not in conformance, they are identified in a report.

During an audit, your website will be tested for keyboard navigability as well as screen reader compatibility.  Also, your code and content will be evaluated.

Manual audits involve several hours of review.

User Testing

User testing primarily entails people with disabilities – typically including but certainly not limited to blind or visually impaired users – going through the primary userflows of your website and checking for any practical barriers or encumbrances.

For example, user testing may reveal an incompatibility with Microsoft Edge browser that isn’t found with Google Chrome or FireFox.

User testing usually uncovers practical issues that are not found in a manual audit and thus provides an effective two-tier net system to ensure excellent accessibility and usability.


It’s important to contract with a reputable agency or vendor when making your website compliant with Section 508.

Essential Accessibility has been helping clients with accessibility for 12 years. We are here to support and guide you in becoming compliant with the law.

If you have any questions or would like a price quote on your website or app’s accessibility, feel free to email me at