Section 508 Compliance: What's in It for Me?
When you hear about Section 508 compliance, especially when you have to be compliant on your own dime, you may think that this is just one of those requirements that your company has to pay big bucks for. Maybe you even thought about checking the box, and see what you can get away with if you don't worry about it. Maybe you thought that you are paying, and others are benefiting. In this article, I would like to show where your company can majorly benefit from Section 508 compliance.
Basic Costs of Section 508 Compliance
The good news is that if you consistently apply Section 508 compliance in your projects, it will become another standard development practice that you follow, such as internal quality assurance testing, or ISO 9001 compliance.
If your company has never implemented Section 508 practices before, it will certainly have some associated costs. However, not implementing Section 508 can become even more costly.
With a relatively simple cost analysis calculation, you can figure out how much will it cost you to implement Section 508 into your projects, and how much will it take you not to.
Cost of Section 508 Compliance
Depending on the approach you would like to take, you can either hire developers who have Section 508 experience, so that they can implement it from the beginning. This will certainly add some costs to your hiring process, as you will have less developers to choose from.
If you already have a system in place and you would like to apply Section 508 compliance, most likely you will need the help of an accessibility consultant to find out the problem areas and receive recommendations on the most effective ways of fixing it.
Cost of Non-compliance
Now, let's see what is the cost associated if you do not comply with Section 508.
Primarily, you will bid for government contracts less successfully, as Section 508 is required for information technology products and services. It is common knowledge, however, that certain agencies take it more seriously than others, and it maybe very likely that you can just check the box and get away with it claiming compliance.
Once your product is accepted or approved, it is not the end of the game. It will eventually make it to the end-users, let that be the general public, or government employees. It is very likely that among the end-users you will find many people with disabilities, whom Section 508 benefits.
If they are not able to use your products, they can file a complaint or a Section 508 lawsuit.
And this is where your costs will come into play. If you are required to comply with Section 508, first of all, you have automatically lost this case. Besides, you will be required to fix your products and ensure Section 508 compliance.
So, the other side of your calculation will be the amount of time and effort required to bring an already finished product to Section 508 compliance, and the cost associated with pulling your product off-line while you are making the changes, as it is not usable for people with disabilities.
It Is Not Only about The Lawsuit
Many Section 508 compliance issues do not necessarily make it to a legal battle. Most commonly these issues will be resolved within a given government agency. If an agency that you contract for finds out that your products or services are not Section 508 compliant and you already have a contract in place, most likely this issue will make it to the agency's Section 508 coordinator, who can deny approving the use of your products. In this case you will still be responsible to make the necessary changes in accordance with your contract terms, which primarily spell out Section 508 compliance.