Test your Site for Accessibility with Cynthia Says ™

Make Your Websites Accessible to All


Nancy Weaver



Website accessibility has been a pretty hot topic for PWDs (people with disabilities) and those who work in the access field. Every business with a website should make their websites accessible to generate more website traffic and serve as many customers as possible.

Relatively few websites are required to be accessible to people with disabilities, as directed by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. In fact, only the Executive branch is required to do this.

Congress and all the courts have made their sites accessible, as well as states and most local governments. Any non-federal government agency that receives federal funding must make its website accessible.

Tools to Make Your Site Accessible

Section 508 spun off a whole new line of business for technology companies, including the very few who didn’t already have government contracts to hunt down and fix every last page of the intergalactic “dot-gov” empire. Get started:

  1. Check Site Compatibility. The front page of ICDRI.org has a portal to AskCynthia software, where you can test your website to see specifically where it’s not compliant with Section 508 or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). For example, contact forms are often not accessible, along with “alt attributes,” which are metadata you can fill out to provide alternative information about an image for screen readers to relay to users with sight disabilities.
  2. Use Metadata Fields. Webmasters can do a lot on their own to make their sites accessible by using metadata. WebAIM offers 10 easy ways to do this.
Pay Attention to Design. Much of what makes a site accessible is its design. The Job Accommodation Network offers design and testing tips. For example, a consistent page design can go a long way to reduce confusion, particularly for individuals

Who Should Make Their Sites Accessible?

You don’t have to make your site specifically aligned with Section 508. All you have to do is offer alternative ways to communicate with people who have sight or hearing disabilities. Of course, if your site serves PWDs, it makes sense to try to incorporate as many site accessibility tools as possible.

Government websites should be accessible, and many are already doing it.

  1. The official Social Security website uses BrowseAloud by reading text aloud and highlighting the words as they are spoken to help people with learning disabilities, English as a second language, and mild visual impairments.

The websites of companies involved with healthcare, including health information and news, should also have some accessibility functions.

  1. MesotheliomaHelp.org, a site that serves patients and families with the disease, has chat and listening options prominently displayed on its landing page to serve many mesothelioma PWDs.

News and entertainment websites should be accessible and many have developed their own closed-captioning tools for online viewing.

  1. BT.com offers phone, broadband, and TV to more than 170 companies and its website includes entertainment, sports, and lifestyle articles and videos for its viewers. The website uses Browsealoud for people who find it difficult to read online.

Nancy Werner has been a freelance writer since the early 1980s. She writes primarily about health, health related issues and nutrition.