Web-Based Application Development Methodology for Section 508 Compliance

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Web-Based Application Development Methodology for Section 508 Compliance

February 28, 2002

Version 1.0


Web-Based Application Development Methodology for Section 508 Compliance 1

February 28, 2002 1

Version 1.0 1

Contents i

introduction 2

Scope 5

Delimitations 7

Background 8

What is Section 508? 8

What is the Purpose of Section 508? 9

How is Section 508 Implemented? 9

User Community 10

Who Is the “User Community” of Government IT? 10

Who Was the “User” Before Section 508? 10

Who Are the “Users” Now? 10

Technical Standards 12

Functional Requirements 12

Appearance Requirements 13

Development lifecycle 15

Project Definition 15

Requirements Analysis 15

Renovating Existing Web-Based Applications 16

Building Accessible Web-Based Applications 16

Web-Based Application Testing 17

Summary 20

Appendix a – Technical Standards 21

Functional Requirements 21

Appearance Requirements 45

APPENDIX B – Section 508 Compliance Checklist for WEB-BASED APPLICATIONS 72


This is a ‘living’ document that examines the application of the Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) Accessibility Standards of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 as they apply to web-based application development. This legislation requires that information delivered via Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) must be made accessible to disabled users in the Federal Government as well as the general public.

Subsequently, this development methodology is intended to be a starting point for incorporating accessibility into software design based on the Section 508 legislation and the Guide to Section 508 Standards for Electronic and Information Technology developed by the Federal Access Board. As new information becomes available and experience gained in the definition, interpretation, and application of accessible technology standards, it is expected that this methodology will be refined and expanded. The introduction of new software technology, programming languages, and systems integration technologies as well as advancements in assistive/adaptive technologies will also help to redefine and improve this methodology. It should further be noted that at the time of this document’s publication, the Federal Access Board was revising their current Guide to the Section 508 Standards for Electronic and Information Technology and anticipated offering new training programs for developers of EIT in the near future.

The development methodology has been designed to produce web-based software applications that are (1) compliant with the Section 508 Technical Standards in effect at the time of the analysis, and, (2) accessible to disabled users and users of assistive technology.

To attain compliance with Section 508 technical accessibility standards requires a multi-phased approach:

  • systems managers, software developers, government customers and contractors must be educated regarding Section 508 and advised in the correct application of the standards as they apply to NASA Headquarters

  • existing applications must be tested and evaluated for Section 508 compliance

  • applications currently in development must be re-evaluated to assure compliance in the delivered software products

The approach for making an application compliant with Section 508 will vary depending on the application’s state of development (i.e., renovation of existing web-based applications or new development). Incorporating Section 508 development standards at the start of the development lifecycle will reduce labor and cost significantly as compared to the cost and labor of modifying an existing application’s coding.

There are two significant coding issues facing the renovation process for existing applications at NASA Headquarters (HQ).

(1) Browser support. Since Netscape does not support accessibility coding, those applications developed for the Netscape browser must be re-coded to function correctly in the Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) browser. These browsers do not support HTML, JavaScript or other DHTML languages the same way. In the process of re-coding the application for IE, the accessibility attributes should be added at the same time to reduce development costs.

(2) Application design. All web-based applications developed prior to June 21, 2001, were designed for a user with ideal eyesight, mobility and cognitive functions. The developer’s ability to display large quantities of information within the confines of a browser’s window has increased tremendously with advancements in technology. Information that would take many pages of paper to display can now be viewed within one browser window with the assistance of compound tables, JavaScript pop-up windows, hyperlink references and animations. Some content may be made accessible with modification to existing code, however much of the content may require a re-work of the user interface design (GUI) to implement an accessible presentation of the information. This revised content presentation may take the form of a new page design or the addition of an ‘accessible’ page set for disabled users.

This document provides a development framework that will support successful renovation of existing software applications and the development of new accessible software products. This framework consists of:

  • an explanation of Section 508

  • an understanding of the design requirements of Section 508 and recommendations for implementing them

  • a methodology for incorporating Section 508 requirements into the software development lifecycle to assure compliance

  • tools to assist accessible development, e.g.,

Software applications analyzed during the production of this document were a combination of ColdFusion-based web applications with database application support.

Note: It is recommended that hard copies of this document be printed on a color printer due to the treatment of accessibility features in Appendix A – Technical Standards Table.

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