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How do I Evaluate My Software Applications or Website for Accessibility?

See Also: Tech Tools, EIT Professionals

To evaluate your website or software application, you inspect each feature and functionality of the technology, and compare it against a specific set of criteria listed in the Section 508 Standards, to measure or verify whether it conforms or passes that criterion.

Which category does my product belong in? First you must figure out which of the standards apply to your product. The Standards lists criteria specific to various types of technologies including: As you review Subpart B Technical Standards, the Summary of Section 508 Standards you will see that the Standards provide technical specifications and performance-based requirements which focus on the functional capability of each of the technology categories. Your product may not fit neatly into one single Standard, but may have functionality that overlaps one or more. It is rare to find an application that only has Web elements or software elements. You should read through all the categories to see which of the detailed technical specifications apply to your technology, because applications often incorporate both software and Web elements. It is rare to find an application that only has Web elements or software elements. Whether a software application includes a Web-based help page or a Web page includes AJAX to reveal new information without loading a new page, most applications contain both Web and software elements. You should test for both Software and Web standards. (See DHS Flow chart: Which Testing tool should I use? )

What Tools Can I Use to Test My Technology?

There is no Section 508 Validation service on the website, nor does GSA promote any validation tool over another. There are many software tools on the market to inspect your software application or website for accessibility. Many resources are listed on this site including Tools and Resources/ Technology Tools and other websites. The most important thing to remember is that there is no single tool that can review your site, find all the errors or fix them for you. Some tools have been known to report false negatives as well as false positives. The most thorough Section 508 compliance test of a website or web application must be completed using both automated and manual checks.

So How do I test my site?

The main concern is that all the information and data on the site and all the functionality is barrier-free and can be used by individuals with disabilities, that is, individuals who may need to use assistive technologies () to access the information and data on the site. We need to be sure that the content on the site is available to individuals who are blind, have low vision, who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who have mobility difficulties.

Assistive technologies may include screen readers, refreshable Braille, voice recognition, amplification, TTY/ TDD, screen magnification, high contrast color, and all functions are available by using only the keyboard. or not using the mouse. Although you can use automated tools to generate error reports, you must also manually review all of the results. Visual checks may include:
  • Tab through the page and note if the page has a logical top-bottom, left-right flow. (in certain situations left-right, top-bottom may not be a desirable solution)
  • Meaningful images must have appropriate alt text.
  • Test the page with JavaScript turned off to compare functionality
  • Ensure that frames are navigable.
  • View all source code (e.g., for tables, forms, scripts, objects, browser bugs if any).

Below are a short list of tools you can use to aid in the visual assessment process. A more detailed listing can be found in the Tech Tools and EIT Professional section of the site.

Software Testing Tools:

Web Testing Tools:

Selected Federal Guidelines and Checklists

Below we provide a compilation of Section 508 standards, guidelines and checklists from government agencies such as DHS, SSA, IRS, and others to test your application. See Federal Agency Policy Guidance and Shared Practices for an extended list. Disclaimer: The IT Accessibility & Workforce Division does not endorse the content or commercial products on any of the external sites provided, but offers them as an informational resource to be used at your discretion. This list is intended solely as a resource for users who develop and, or manage government websites. This is an unofficial list for informational purposes only. Please feel welcome to contact the Section 508 website help desk, email us at if you have questions.