508 Compliance Audit: Website or Application

Checklist 7 min
Every form of communication the DoD produces must be Section 508 compliant. Follow this checklist to ensure compliance for your websites, web applications and software.

If no method exists to meet these requirements, an alternate version of your website or application should be provided. Contact your Section 508 program team for alternate content options. Visit the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines site for the full list of guidelines.

Structure and Tags

A well-defined structure helps users utilize adaptive technology to more easily acclimate to a website or application. Screen readers use tags to interpret the structure and characteristics of a web page or application. This helps the users understand how the content is presented, its purpose and what it means. To be compliant:

  • The reading and navigation order is logical and intuitive.
  • Semantic markup is present to designate:
    • Headings.
    • Lists (ordered, unordered and description lists).
    • Emphasized or special text (bold, italics, blockquote, code, abbreviation, etc.).

  • Each page has:
    • An informative page title.
    • Appropriately titled frames.
    • Proper heading structure.
  • The language of the page uses the "HTML lang attribute."
  • Any page content in a different language uses the "lang attribute."
  • A link is provided to skip navigation and other page elements repeated across web pages.
  • Meaningful Cascading Style Sheets content is available and in a logical order when viewed without style sheets.
  • Content intended to be hidden from all users is also hidden from assistive technology.

Images and Other Non-text Content

Screen readers cannot infer meaning from images and other objects, e.g., pictures, images of text, charts, diagrams, shapes, icons with hyperlinks, etc. To be compliant:

  • All images, form image buttons and image map hotspots, have alternative text (alt text).
  • Any image that presents text has that text repeated in alt text.
  • CSS background images that convey meaning have textual alternatives.
  • Images that do not convey content, are decorative or contain content that is already conveyed in text are given null alt text (alt="") or implemented as CSS backgrounds.
  • Equivalent alternatives to complex images are in context (e.g., as a caption or on-screen text) or on a separate page.
  • Embedded multimedia is identified via accessible text.
  • Animated content has an alternative or description in the text.
  • CAPTCHA tests are accessible in visual and audible formats.
  • Textual alternative information is updated when an element's state changes.


Tables can be used in many ways on a website or application. They must be structured and built to be easily recognized and consumed by users with screen readers and other accessibility needs. To be compliant:

  • Tables used for tabular data have the data contained in separate cells.
  • Data table headers have appropriate identification markers.
  • Data cells are associated with their headers.
  • Data tables have appropriate summaries and captions.
  • Tables used solely for layout identify their purpose and do not contain structural markup.

Links and Controls

Users with different accessibility needs must be able to easily identify and understand hyperlinks and controls as well as their functions or link destinations. To be compliant:

  • The purpose of each link, form image button or image map hotspot can be determined from the link text alone or the link text and its context.
  • Links or form image buttons with the same text that point to different destinations are readily distinguishable.
  • At least TWO ways are available to find other web pages on the site:
    • A list of related pages.
    • Table of contents.
    • Site map.
    • Site search.
    • List of all available web pages.

Keyboard Accessibility

Users that cannot use a mouse, trackball or similar device must be able to utilize a keyboard in order to use and navigate your website or application. To be compliant:

  • All page functionality is available using the keyboard unless the functionality cannot be accomplished in any known way using a keyboard.
  • Page-specified shortcut keys and access keys DO NOT conflict with browser and screen reader shortcuts.
  • All content functionality is operable without requiring specific timings for individual keystrokes.
  • Device-dependent event handlers are avoided when possible.
  • It is visually apparent which page element has the current keyboard focus.
  • Keyboard focus moves to and returns from elements appropriately.
  • Keyboard focus DOES NOT lock on one page element, and the user can navigate to and from all navigable page elements using only a keyboard.

Forms/Input Assistance

Accessibility should be considered for users who need to enter information into the website or application (e.g., contact web forms). To be compliant:

  • The navigation order of links and form elements is logical.
  • Sufficient labels, cues and instructions for required interactive elements are provided at the beginning of the form or set of fields via instructions.
  • Text labels are associated with form input elements.
  • Elements with multiple labels show a meaningful order.
  • Page headings and labels for form and interactive controls are informative and DO NOT duplicate headings or label text unless the structure provides adequate differentiation between them.
  • Related form elements are grouped with a field set/legend.
  • Information is provided as a text description when form elements require a specific format, value or length.
  • Instructions:
    • DO NOT rely on sound.
    • DO NOT rely on shape, size or visual location.
  • Menus, simulated dialogs, calendar pickers and dynamic content align with the controls that spawn them.
  • If a form validation or input error is present:
    • The error is clearly identified.
    • The error is presented in an accessible manner.
    • Quick access to the problematic element is provided.
    • The user is allowed to fix the error.
    • The user is allowed to resubmit the form.
  • If the user can change or delete legal, financial or test data, the changes/deletions can be reversed, verified or confirmed.

Color and Sensory Characteristics

Color and contrast are integral parts of accessibility, particularly for users with visual disabilities. Use a tool such as https://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker to determine if contrast ratios are sufficient. To be compliant:

  • Color IS NOT:
    • The sole method of conveying content or distinguishing visual elements.
    • Used to distinguish links from surrounding text unless the luminance contrast between the link and the surrounding text is at least 3:1 and an additional differentiation is present.
  • Non-text content uses patterns to convey the same information as color alone.
  • Text and images of text have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1.
  • Due to possible seizures, no page content flashes more than three times per second unless that flashing content is sufficiently small, the flashes are of low contrast and they DO NOT contain too much red.

Time-based Media

Unless time-based media (such as audio or video files) is used as an alternative to text and is clearly labeled as such, you must provide an alternative for users who perceive equivalent information differently. To be compliant:

  • For prerecorded audio-only media (e.g., audio podcasts, MP3 files):
    • Provide a descriptive text transcript that includes all relevant auditory clues and indicators.
    • Provide synchronized captions.
  • For prerecorded video-only media (e.g., animations, YouTube videos):
    • Provide a descriptive text transcript that includes all relevant auditory and visual clues and indicators.
    • Provide synchronized captions.
    • If the video has no audio by default, provide an audio alternative by including an audio track describing the pertinent information within the video.
  • For live media that contains audio (e.g., broadcasts, webcasts, video conferences):
    • Provide synchronized captions.
  • When multimedia, such as videos or animations, includes audio that automatically plays for more than three seconds, a mechanism needs to be available to:
    • Stop and/or pause.
    • Mute and/or adjust the volume level.


Some elements of your website or application may have changes that take place after a prescribed period of time. This set time may not be compatible for some users with accessibility needs. To be compliant:

  • If a page or application has a time limit, ensure the user can turn off, adjust or extend that time limit (this is not a requirement for real-time events where the time limit is required or if the time limit is longer than 20 hours).
  • Automatically moving, blinking or scrolling content that lasts longer than five seconds can be paused, stopped or hidden by the user.
  • Content that automatically updates can be paused, stopped or hidden by the user, or the user can manually control the timing of the updates.


Consistency in how your website or application interacts with users is important for all users, but especially those with accessibility needs. To be compliant:

  • When a page element receives focus, it DOES NOT result in:
    • A substantial change to the page.
    • The spawning of a pop-up window.
    • An additional change of keyboard focus.
    • Any other change that could confuse or disorient the user.
  • When a user inputs information or interacts with a control, it DOES NOT result in:
    • A substantial change to the page.
    • The spawning of a pop-up window.
    • An additional change of keyboard focus.
    • Any other change that could confuse or disorient the user unless the user is informed of the change beforehand.
  • Navigation links repeated on web pages DO NOT change order when navigating.
  • Elements of the webpage that have the same functionality across multiple web pages are consistently identified.


Your website or application must work with assistive technology as well as other hardware and applications. To be compliant:

  • There are NO HTML/XHTML validation or parsing errors. Check for these errors at http://validator.w3.org.
  • Users have control over platform accessibility features.
  • There is no interruption between the application and platform accessibility features.
  • For tree and outline components:
    • The name and role can be programmatically determined.
    • The properties are visible.
    • The user can manually and programmatically set values.
    • The notification of changes to these items, including assistive technologies, is available to user agents.
  • The content of text objects and text attributes are:
    • Rendered to the screen and are programmatically determinable.
    • Modifiable with the use of assistive technology.
  • If the application allows the user to customize the font size, font color, font type or font contrast, then the content in the application remains available and respects those user settings.
  • The page is readable and functional when the text size is doubled.
  • If the application offers an alternative interface, the alternative meets all other respective standards.
  • If the application contains multimedia:
    • Caption controls are at the same menu level as volume controls.
    • Audio description controls are at the same menu level as volume controls.
  • Where an application is an authoring tool:
    • It provides the functions to create or edit accessible content in the final format.
    • When content converts to another format, any supported accessibility information transfers to the final format.
    • When a PDF is generated, it complies with PDF/UA standards. See 508 Compliance Audit: PDF Document.
    • Prompts are provided to ensure accessible content.
    • Any available templates within the tool meet accessibility criteria.

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