Indiana's Section 508 Web Accessibility

Coding Solutions and Requirements

January 31, 2003

Last Revision: October 31, 2003

The State of Indiana's policy is to comply with the accessibility guidelines of Section 508 of theFederal Rehabilitation Act of 1998.  This document provides the requirements and coding solutions required by affected State Agencies.  The Web standard is1194.22 of Section 508.

Direct questions to:         See links to 508 Details or W3C Examples

PDF Policy | GIS Policy | Additional Recommendations

(a) A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via "alt", “longdesc", or in element content).

To be accessible:

  1. Every image, button, check box, bullets in lists, links in an image map offer an alt tag.
  2. Every Java applet, Flash file, video / audio file, plug-in, etc. has an Object and ID tag. When using Object, specify a text equivalent in the body of the Object element.
  3. Provide captioning or a written description or transcript of any critical information that is contained in audio files.  This can accompany the audio or reside on a separate page with a clear link from the audio content.
  4. Complex graphics containing information (graphs, charts, photos, etc.) need to be described.  Do this in the content, or by using the "longdesc" tag, or offer a link to a suitable description that conveys what the object describes visually.
  5. The alt descriptions succinctly describe the purpose of the objects, without being too verbose (for simple objects) or too vague (for complex objects).
  6. Alt descriptions for images used as links are descriptive of the link destination.
  7. Decorative graphics with no other function have empty alt descriptions (alt= " "), but they never have missing alt descriptions.  No text is placed between the double quotes.


(b) Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.

To be accessible:

  1. Captions of the audio descriptions of visual information in multimedia files (video with audio) are synchronized.
  2. Descriptive text should include not only any dialog, but also a description of the visual images in the video.  However, if there is no important visual information, for example, an animated talking head, then only a brief notation that the video is present is required.
  3. Audio files with no video are not multimedia so they do not need to be captioned, but a text transcript must be available via a link to an accessible version.
  4. A (silent) Web slide show presentation does not need to have an audio description accompanying it, but does require text alternatives to be associated with the graphics.
  5. Live audio and video Web cast speeches, need to be captioned.


(c) Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup.

To be accessible:

  1. If color is used to convey important information, an accessible indicator is also offered.
  2. Avoid background images or colors that reduce the visibility of text or navigation elements.
  3. Good contrast exists between the text and background.
  4. The removal of color does not affect the page's usability.


(d) Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.

NOTE:  The AccessIndiana Supertheme complies with this Guideline.  If you have added no style sheets of your own, you are in compliance with this element.

To be accessible:

  1. Document is understandable (if less visually appealing) if style sheets are turned off.
  2. Only external style sheets are used.


(e) Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server-side image map.

NOTE:  At this time, AccessIndiana does not use or support server-side image maps.  All pages therefore comply with this Guideline.

To be accessible, separate text links are provided outside of the server-side image map to access the same content that the image map hot spots access.


(f)  Client-side image maps shall be provided instead of server-side image maps except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape.

NOTE: At this time, AccessIndiana does not support server-side image maps.  Therefore all pages comply with this Guideline.

To be accessible, standard HTML client-side image maps are used, and appropriate Alt tags are provided for the image as well as the hot spots.


(g) Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables.

To be accessible:

  1. Data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers use appropriate table tags to make them readable with assistive technology.
  2. Summary tags are now read by new screen readers and are strongly encouraged.
  3. Tables are created using current and appropriate table tags.
  4. Tables used strictly for layout purposes do NOT have header rows or columns attribute.
  5. Tables are NOT preformatted using the <PRE> tag.

Details: for (g) and (h):

(h) Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header cells.

To be accessible:

  1. Table cells are associated with the appropriate headers (e.g. using as appropriate the headers, id, scope, etc  attributes).
  2. Information about and contained in tables is understandable when rendered by screen readers or other alternative user clients. 

(i) Frames shall be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation.

NOTE:  Screen readers do not effectively access frames. Therefore frames are strongly discouraged.  Contact AccessIndiana to discuss specific situations.

To be accessible, each frame is given a title that explains the frame's purpose.


(j) Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz.  

(Hz is an abbreviation for hertz, a unit of frequency equal to one cycle per second)

To be accessible:

  1. No elements on the page flicker at a rate between 2 Hz and 55 Hz.
  2. Do not use the "blink" or "marquee" tag.


(k) A text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be provided to make a Web site comply with the provisions of these standards, when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way.

To be accessible:

  1. A text-only version is created only when there is no other way to make the content accessible, or when it offers significant advantages over the primary version for certain disability types.
  2. The content of the text-only version is updated whenever the primary page changes.
  3. The text-only version provides the functionality equivalent to that of the primary version.


(l) When pages utilize scripting languages to display content, or to create interface elements, the information provided by the script shall be identified with functional text that can be read by assistive technology.

NOTE:  The scripts provided by AccessIndiana meet this requirement.  Contact AccessIndiana if you insert any other scripts.

To be accessible:

  1. Information within the scripts is text-based, or a text alternative is provided within the script itself, in accordance with (a) in these guidelines.
  2. Provide a <NOSCRIPT> option that provides equivalent content for all scripts.
  3. If APPLET is used, provide a text equivalent with the "ALT" attribute and in the content in the APPLET element.
  4. If OBJECT is used, provide a text equivalent in the content of the element.
  5. All scripts (e.g. Javascript pop-up menus) are either directly accessible to assistive technologies (e.g. keyboard accessibility), or an alternative method of accessing equivalent functionality is provided (e.g. a standard HTML link).
  6. Contact information is provided as an alternative means for obtaining access to the information whenever the <APPLET> or <OBJECT> is used.


(m) When a Web page requires that an applet, plug-in or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with§1194.21 (a) through (l).

NOTE: AccessIndiana will place an "Accessibility" link in the footer of Common Look and Feel (CLAF) pages . The link leads to the State's "Accessibility" information page.

To be accessible:

  1. Pages containing links to non-HTML files offer an accessible means for obtaining the needed applet, plug-in or viewers.  You must place the link on your non-CLAF pages.
  2. All Java applets, scripts and plug-ins and the content within them are accessible to assistive technologies, or else an alternative means of accessing equivalent content is provided.


(n) When electronic forms are designed to be completed on-line, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.

NOTE:  Electronic forms created by AccessIndiana meet this guideline.  Dynamic HTML scripting of forms does not interfere with assistive technologies.  For forms made in PDF, also see the PDF Policy on page 6.

To be accessible:

  1. Use the <LABEL> Tag and associated "FOR" attribute to tag labels.  Identify the exact words that you want to use as the label for the form element and enclose those words in a <LABEL> tag.  Use the "FOR" attribute to uniquely identify that element.
  2. Use the "ID" attribute in the associated form element to "tie" that form element to its associated <LABEL>.


(o) A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.

NOTE:  The AccessIndiana Supertheme provides such a method.  If you offer additional sets of repetitive navigational links, contact AccessIndiana or follow the guideline below.

To be accessible, a link is provided to skip over lists of navigational menus or other lengthy lists of links.


(p) When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate more time is required.

NOTE: Timed responses are not required by any work produced by AccessIndiana.  If you have added a timed response, follow the guidelines below.

To be accessible:

  1. The user has control over the timing of content changes.
  2. The user shall be alerted via a prompt and given sufficient time to indicate whether additional time is needed.


GIS Policy

To be accessible:

  1. If data tables are small, properly tag and make the data tables available.
  2. If data tables are large, provide information on how one may e-mail or telephone the appropriate staff person who can provide the desired information.
  3. The removal of color does not affect the page's ability to communicate the information.

PDF Policy

General Guidelines

  1. State agencies are encouraged to publish Web pages in HTML rather than in PDF. 
  2. Saving files to PDF will not be viewed as a way to avoid creating an HTML-version.
  3. If an HTML-version is not immediately possible, then offer:
    1. it in an accessible version such as Rich Text Format, Text or MS Word 5.1,
    2. information in spreadsheets and databases in the formats mentioned in #1.
  4. The following are the only types of files that may be offered as a PDF:
    1. Large, complex documents that users would likely save to their computer for reference and/or print.
    2. Documents (official, legal or signed) whose onscreen appearance must mirror their hardcopy version, because if when altered in any fashion the meaning or use of the document would be unacceptably compromised.
  5. Documents intended to be made into a PDF, will be properly created so as to ensure that when converted, they will produce an accessible, tagged document. Appropriate document developers will be trained on the correct techniques.

Detailed Guidelines

Item Action to be Taken Notes
Existing PDFs No action needed  
New PDFs Offer as a tagged 5.0* 1
Forms to be filled in online HTML is recommended 1, 2,
Other files saved as PDF Offer as a tagged 5.0 1
HTML pages with links to PDF files Comply with appropriate notes 1, 3, 4, 5, 6
Other graphical information Alternative format not needed 
Offer a summary or description
4, 7

  1. Optimize the PDF to get the smallest file size.   Avoid individual files larger than 1 MB.
  2. Forms intended to be completed online, must comply with paragraph (n).
  3. Summarize the nature and purpose of the form in the content or as part of the link.
  4. Provide contact information on how to obtain an accessible version, an alternative format or the information they seek.
  5. Offer a link to Adobe's online conversion tools.  See "Usability Recommendations" #6
  6. Offer a link to an accessible method to download Acrobat Reader.  See paragraph (See:(m)1)
  7. Graphical information includes:
    maps, building plans, pictures, organizational charts, schematics, drawings, etc.

(Also see W3C draft guidelines on make accessible PDF documents: )

Usability Recommendations

Usability is defined as the ease or convenience of accessing or working with the information. 

While Indiana's Section 508 Accessibility Coding Solutions do not require the following Recommendations, Indiana Agencies are strongly encouraged to adopt the following.

  1. All hyperlinks make sense when read out of context.  (Avoid:  Click here)
  2. This assists visitors using screen readers who tab between hyperlinks.
  3. All "Mailto' links offer the actual e-mail address as a link or adjacent to the name link.
    ( or J. Avoid:Jane Smith)
  4. This assists users whose computer lacks an e-mail clients, such as in public libraries.
  5. When indicating monetary values, include the dollar sign ($) if space permits. Screen readers will read the amount as dollars and cents.
  6. Links to non-HTML files indicate the document’s file type in text or using a graphic. (e.g.  MS Word .doc file or Adobe .pdf file)  This indicates a file will be downloaded and client software will be needed to read it.
  7. Links to non-HTML file larger than 1.0 Mb, also indicate the file size and number of pages.(e.g.  .doc, 2.0 Mb, 9 pages ) This indicates files that will take more than 2 ½ minutes to download at 56k..
  8. Agencies will identify a person(s) to whom electronic information accessibility questions should be directed.  Forward this contact information to AccessIndiana and keep it current.  Agencies should develop an internal plan to address this issue. This expedites access to information hampered by an accessibility challenge.
  9. Ensure Web pages accessibility is client or device independent.
  10. Ensure that a link to the State's Accessibility page appears on all pages. (See:(m)1) You are responsible for adding this link to pages that don’t use the CLAF.
  11. Incorporate these Recommendations into your Agency's coding requirements.