Tips for Navigating 508 Compliance

February 22, 2017

Kendra Barker, M.Ed.
Instructional Designer-Specialist
Collaborative for Excellence in Behavioral Health Research and Practice
University of Missouri-Kansas City

Think 508 compliance is just for other people to worry about?

Think again. Disabled World reported in 2015 that people with disabilities experience substance use disorders at a rate two to four times higher than the general population.  CDC reported in 2015 that one out of every five people in the U.S. has a disability.

It's important that people with disabilities have access to information and resources on the Web. That's where 508 enters the picture.  Yet, for many people, 508--what it is, and what rules must be followed--is a bit of a mystery.  In this blog post, I hope to clear up some of that mystery by defining 508 compliance and why it's important to you, your organization, and those you serve (clients, patients, colleagues, and staff).

What is 508 compliance?

To understand 508, we first have to understand web accessibility. According to W3C (Web Accessibility Initiative): "Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web." In 1998, the Rehabilitation Act was amended to require all Federal agencies to make any electronic or information technology product accessible to people with disabilities. That's 508 compliance. 

How do you make sure everyone can access your product on the Web? It's actually pretty easy. First, plan ahead to organize your product. For example, if you use a graph in a video, under 508 standards you need to make sure you describe the graph through narration or a transcript. Make sure you add that to your timeline. Remember, if people can't access your product, they won't use it. Also, it's easier to add 508 components to your Web product in the development stage, rather than when requested after your product is live--which can take a lot of time. This is important, because organizations unable to make accommodations under 508 may face legal consequences.  

Let's look at a PowerPoint slide that is not 508 compliant. 

What's wrong with this picture? 

1. Let's start with the biggest problem: the background. It's mainly black, making the text hard to read, especially for people who are colorblind. Avoid busy or dark backgrounds unless your text is in a high-contrast color. 

2. Font colors. The red font in the word "alcohol" blends in with the background. in the middle of the slide, the blue font is barely visible against the black background. The white text in the line at the bottom of the slide stands out, but it's barely legible because its so small.

3. Speaking of text, none of the fonts used are 508 compliant. For those with sight problems, this makes it hard to read. Stick to the tree most commonly used fonts for Web products: Arial, Georgia, or Verdana.  

4. Font size. The line "Presented by..." (Yes, I made that up) is too small to see. Some 508 compliance checkers say you have to use a minimum 10-point font for a PC and 12 point with a Mac. I stick with 12 point, as it is a lot easier to read in general. 

5. Website name. (The website in this example is fictional.) Use the website title, which tells the user exactly where they are going when they select the link, rather than the URL. For example, for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, list HHS. gov instead of 

6. Lists. On the right side, next to the hands image, do you see "Opioids and Morphine Derivatives?" Is this a list? If so, use bullet points to show that it is a list. 

7. The image of the hands. For users with a visual impairment, who may not be able to see this picture, you will need to add "alt" text--short text describing the picture that is read by  a screen reader.  Add alt text to all of your images. 

Here's the same PowerPoint slide, corrected for 508 compliance: 

If you print this in black and white, can you see everything perfectly? Yes! Did it take me long to make these changes? No!

Keep in mind that these are just a few tips on 508 compliance. These tips apply to every type of product you create for the Web.

508 compliance is not that difficult, and it can benefit you by benefiting your clients. It just takes time and practice.  The main thing to remember is that planning ahead is key to 508 success.

For more information, check out the following resources:
Section 508 Law and Related Laws and Policies

About our guest blogger 

Kendra Barker is an Instructional Designer Specialist at the Collaborative for Excellence in Behavioral Health Research and Practice at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Nursing and Health Studies. Her passion is creating engaging and interactive courses that are accessible to all types of learners.    

PPW Project Echo: Building capacity to provide care for pregnant and postpartum women with substance use disorders

February 21, 2017

Sarah Knopf-Amelung, MA-R
Senior Project Manager
ATTC Center of Excellence on Behavioral Health for Pregnant and Postpartum Women and Their Families 

Providing evidence-based, family-centered care to pregnant and postpartum women with substance use disorders is extremely complex. In addition to the pressing medical concerns associated with substance use during pregnancy, it also has far-reaching impacts on family members, necessitating providers to care for the whole family. Recognizing the need for training, technical assistance, and support for the behavioral health workforce serving this population, the ATTC Center of Excellence on Behavioral Health for Pregnant and Postpartum Women and Their Families (CoE-PPW) and the ATTC Network Coordinating Office partnered to develop the PPW Project ECHO. This ECHO is the first of its kind to address the behavioral health needs of pregnant and postpartum women, taking a family-centered approach to the recovery process that is inclusive of family members ranging from the infant to older children, fathers to extended family.

What do med students and prescribers need to know about opioid use disorders?

February 8, 2017

Caroline Miller, MSW
Outreach Specialist,
University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Continuing Studies

Wisconsin Voices for Recovery partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health on a Community Engagement Project to conduct a statewide survey of practicing physicians and medical students. The survey was a student-led effort and initiated because medical students felt that their current education on issues related to addiction, specifically the opioid epidemic, was inadequate. The findings highlight where Wisconsin needs to commit resources to improve the education of both students and prescribers, along with end stigma within the medical community.

African American History Month and Addictions Recovery: Featuring the Online Museum of African American Addictions, Treatment, and Recovery

February 1, 2017

Mark Sanders, LCSW, CADC

Gabriela Perez, BA 

Frederick Douglass:
"We cannot stagger to freedom."
In seminars, I ask audiences, “What is the reason that African American History Month is in February?” There is always a pause, followed by the same answer, “Because it’s the shortest month of the year,” which brings about laughter. The answer, though, to why African American History Month is in February is to honor the birthdays of AbrahamLincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). Douglas was the first prominent American recovering alcoholic (White, Sanders, Sanders, 2006). Douglass was also the leader of the Black Temperance movement. This history has been shared with audiences of addictions counselors and inmates in prisons (disproportionately African Americans with substance use disorders). Most are unaware of this history, and many are inspired by it.

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week: Shattering the Myths

January 23, 2017

Maureen Fitzgerald
Editor, NIATx
Communications Coordinator, ATTC Network Coordinating Office 

This week, January 23-29, NIDA's  National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week returns to shatter the myths  that contribute to underage drinking and experimentation with other drugs and tobacco.

Teens are bombarded with conflicting messages that can leave them feeling confused and unsure of who to ask for information about drug use. With 12.9% of 12th graders reporting abuse of prescription drugs in the past year and 21.3% reporting use of marijuana in the past month, there is no better time than now to help teens understand the serious consequences of drug and alcohol use (data is from the Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs).

Shared Decision Making: Helping prescribers taper opioid prescriptions in Maine

January 12, 2017

Maureen Fitzgerald
Editor, NIATx and ATTC Network Coordinating Office

Image: CDC Injury Prevention & Control
States across the country are taking a variety of actions to respond to the opioid crisis. Forty-nine states have established Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs that track prescription and dispensing data as a way to reduce misuse and diversion, particularly of prescription pain medication.

Three states, Maine, Washington, and Massachusetts, have added additional regulations that limit the daily amount of opioid pain medications doctors can prescribe. Maine’s law, the most restrictive of the three states’, went into effect this month. It sets a 100 morphine milligram equivalent (MME) for new patients, and 300 MME for current patients.

The law does not place daily MME limits on medications prescribed for treating substance use disorders. It’s intended to keep people with chronic pain from the taking higher doses of opioid pain medication that increase the risk of overdose and death.

Changing the world's relationship with alcohol through mobile technology

January 2, 2017

Chris Raine
CEO and Founder of Hello Sunday Morning

My parents have been dealing drugs their whole lives.

As general practitioners, they spend their days listening carefully to the patient's ailment and deciding which drug will be most likely to help them achieve their medical aims. You're depressed? Try these antidepressants. High cholesterol? Take a statin. Diabetic? Here is a syringe full of insulin. And through this ongoing dance between diagnosis and dose they are able to adjust a person's biology to help them live better, longer, and happier (most of the time).

I was never smart enough to get into medicine (thankfully) but I did manage to find myself picking up the family business of dealing drugs from a young age. From the age of 15 right through to 22, I made a career out of prescribing copious doses of the drug that billions of people consume but rarely consider its diagnosis: alcohol. It all started with selling bootlegged alcohol to other awkward high school boys at my boarding school. I made a tidy little profit selling it for all sorts of teenage boarding school ailments. Nervous about talking to girls at a party? "This here is called Dutch Courage." Want to do something you would never do sober? "Take four swigs of this." Can't dance? "Shots!"