SF State - Accessible Technology Initiative (ATI)

Image: Photos of the SF State campus and students using a headset, a braille keyboard and a blind cane

508 Standards in Brief

SF State must incorporate one or more of the six categories associated with the Section 508 standards as we develop or acquire new Electronic and Information Technology (E&IT) products or services. You can find brief descriptions of each standard and the supporting resources listed below.

Software Applications and Operating Systems (1194.21)

Most of the specifications for software pertain to usability for people with vision impairments. For example, one provision requires alternative keyboard navigation which is essential for people with vision impairments who cannot rely on pointing devices such as a mouse. Other provisions address animated displays, color and contrast settings, flash rate, and electronic forms, among others.

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Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications (1194.22)

The criteria for web-based technology and information are based on access guidelines developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium. Many of these provisions ensure access for people with vision impairments who rely on various assistive products to access computer-based information, such as screen readers. Screen readers translate what's on a computer screen into automated audible output, and refreshable Braille displays. Certain conventions, such as verbal tags or identification of graphics and format devices like frames, are necessary so that these devices can "read" them for the user in a sensible way. The standards do not prohibit the use of web site graphics or animation. Instead, the standards aim to ensure that such information is also available in an accessible format. Generally, this means use of text labels or descriptors for graphics and certain format elements. (HTML code already provides an "Alt Text" tag for graphics which can serve as a verbal descriptor for graphics). This section also addresses the usability of multimedia presentations, image maps, style sheets, scripting languages, applets and plug-ins, and electronic forms.

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Telecommunications Products (1194.23)

The criteria of this section are designed primarily to ensure access to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. This includes compatibility with hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices, and TTYs. TTYs are devices that enable people with hearing or speech impairments to communicate over the telephone; they typically include an acoustic coupler for the telephone handset, a simplified keyboard, and a visible message display. One requirement calls for a standard non-acoustic TTY connection point for telecommunication products that allow voice communication and that do provide TTY functionality. Other specifications address adjustable volume controls for output, product interface with hearing technologies, and the usability of keys and controls by people who may have impaired vision or limited dexterity or motor control.

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Video or Multimedia Products (1194.24)

Multimedia products involve more than one media and include, but are not limited to, video programs, narrated slide production, and computer generated presentations. Provisions address caption decoder circuitry (for any system with a screen larger than 13 inches) and secondary audio channels for television tuners, including tuner cards for use in computers. The standards also require captioning and audio description for certain training and informational multimedia productions developed or procured by Federal agencies. The standards also provide that display or presentation of alternate text or audio descriptions shall be user-selectable unless permanent.

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Self Contained, Closed Products (1194.25)

This section covers products that generally have imbedded software but are often designed in such a way that a user cannot easily attach or install assistive technology. Examples include information kiosks, information transaction machines, copiers, printers, calculators, fax machines, and similar types of products. The standards require that access features be built into the system so users do not have to attach an assistive device to it. Other specifications address mechanisms for private listening (handset or a standard headphone jack), touch-screens, auditory output and adjustable volume controls, and location of controls in accessible reach ranges.

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Desktop and portable computers (1194.26)

The desktop and portable computers section covers keyboards, keypads, and other controls required for operation of this equipment. Examples of controls that are not located on a keyboard but are still covered include, but are not limited to, on/off switches, reset buttons, release mechanisms for docking stations, and items such as PCMCIA card slots and drives. Desktop and portable computers have become ubiquitous in our society and are used for a wide range of tasks from information gathering and processing to real-time control of machinery and facilities.  Still, developments in technology are leading to a blurring of features between computers and telecommunications, video, multimedia, standalone software, and other technologies.  As a result, a computer or computer system may provide telecommunication, multimedia, and web functionality. Therefore, it may have to comply with one or more of the six categories associated with the section 508 standards in addition to the 1194.31 functional performance criteria.

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