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Accessibility Plays

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Creating accessible websites and documents requires much more than just adding alt text to images and using the correct <h1> and <h2> header tags. USDA’s Section 508 Program Office and Section 508 Coordinators are available to help you understand the requirements of Section 508, how they apply to you, and how you can assess your websites and make sure that they comply. To request information or services from the Departmental Section 508 Program Office, please send an email to or call the office at 202-260-8777.


Angela Williams


Peter Rhee

Farm Service Agency

Steve Meacham

Forest Service

Mitch Ringer

Information Management Services Branch

Jeff Dublo 

National Agricultural Statistics Service

Rich Holcomb 

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Michelle Clark 

Office of the Inspector General

Toni Serpa 

Rural Development

Rick Coleman 

For a complete list of coordinators, see the OCIO Section 508 Coordination Team page. If you do not have or do not know your Section 508 Coordinator, contact Angela Williams.

Additional Resources

The law (Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act) requires that USDA and all federal agencies comply with WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements for accessibility.

Section 508 and USDA require:
Level A and Level AA

WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria Requirements

WCAG 2.0 is a set of technical standards that aim to make web content accessible to people with disabilities. The following questions are based on WCAG 2.0 Standards and will help you determine whether or not your web pages are in compliance. WCAG is oriented around four principles of accessibility: all digital services should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

If you answer “no” to any question, flag it as an area for improvement. If you’re confused by any of these questions, check out WCAG’s 2.0 customizable quick reference (a checklist) to view the full requirements list and techniques for meeting those requirements. You can also reach out to your mission area’s Section 508 Coordinator to help you.

Perceivable: Users can understand content because it’s presented in multiple formats that they can read by themselves or with assistive technologies

  1. For all videos, do you provide captions or transcriptions of the content?

  2. Do all images have a text description?

  3. Do all text and images of text have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1?

  4. Can all text (except for captions and images of text) be resized up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality?


Operable: Users can easily navigate the content using a keyboard and related assistive technologies and within configurable time limits

  1. Is there more than one way for users to navigate, find content, and determine where they are?

  2. Do you use headings and labels to describe topic and/or purpose for each page?

  3. Do all keyboard-operable user interfaces have a mode where users can see the keyboard focus indicator?


Understandable: Users can easily read, understand, and operate the user interface. All Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways

  1. Is all text content readable and understandable?

  2. Can assistive technologies (like screen readers) determine the language used in the content (excluding items like proper names, technical terms, and words of foreign origin)?

  3. Does your site have the USDA-approved side navigation?

  4. Are all components with the same functionality (i.e., links, buttons) identified consistently?

  5. Do all form entry components use input assistance to help users avoid and correct mistakes?


Robust: You’ve written your code cleanly so that user agents and assistive technologies (current and future) can understand it

  1. Can assistive technologies can parse the content accurately (example: complete start/end tags)?

  2. Does my site use programmatically determinable names for all user interface components?

Additional Resources

The law requires that USDA and all federal agencies comply with WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements for accessibility.

The same four WCAG principles that apply to making websites accessible also apply to making documents accessible: documents must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and predictable. This includes Word, PDF, and Powerpoint documents you post online.

See USDA’s Section 508 Acceptance Checklists for guidance on these document types, and contact your Section 508 Coordinator (or Angela Williams, for more information.

Additional Resources

The Access Board’s Revised 508 Standards (E205.3) say that internal-facing electronic content must be accessible (meeting WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements) when the content represents official business and is communicated by an agency through one or more of the following:

  • An emergency notification;

  • An initial or final decision adjudicating an administrative claim or proceeding;

  • An internal or external program or policy announcement;

  • A notice of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunity, or personnel action;

  • A formal acknowledgement of receipt;

  • A survey questionnaire;

  • A template or form;

  • Educational or training materials; or

  • Intranet content designed as a Web page.

The Revised 508 Standards list one exception: Records that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) maintains (under Federal recordkeeping statutes) are exempt, unless those records are public-facing.

If you have questions on how this applies to you, USDA’s Section 508 Program Office and Section 508 Coordinators can help you understand the requirements.

Additional Resources

Over half of global web traffic today comes from mobile web browsers, so chances are high that people are visiting your site using their phones. For example, 54.1% of web traffic to the Forest Service’s Christmas tree permit website ( comes from mobile browsers.

Until recently, most websites were built with fixed dimensions that favored desktop computers. With responsive web design, you can (and must) build websites that are equally accessible to visitors using computers, tablets, and phones alike.

The U.S. Design Systems Layout Grid makes it easy for you to incorporate responsive design into new and existing sites, with free code so you can build a flexible grid system to structure your website content. 

Tips for Making Sure Your Website Reads Well from a Mobile Phone


  • • Pull popular actions to the top: Use Google Analytics to see what people use the most, and pull these items to the top of the browser so people don’t have to scroll far.
  • • Change your image sizes: Supply two different versions of the same image for mobile and desktop; a 400px-wide image for mobile, and a 1200px for desktop. This will allow mobile pages to load more quickly.
  • • Use legible fonts: To ensure that users can read the content on your site, use approved USDA fonts. Rule of thumb: Use 60-75 characters per line of body copy for best readability. Also, be sure that there is enough contrast between your font color and background color.
  • • Emphasize headers: Make your information hierarchy clear by using header font sizes and weights to distinguish them from body text.
  • • Take advantage of smartphone features: For example, make phone numbers clickable so that users can call them with one click.
  • • Test site designs on your own phone (at a minimum) before you go live.


  • • Don’t try to cram your content: To avoid overcrowding phone displays, think about whether your mobile users need all of the content on your desktop site, and get rid of any unnecessary images or text.
  • • Don’t use PNG files for icons: Use SVGs (Scalar Vector graphics) instead of JPGs or PNGs so your icons or logos don’t get pixelated at different sizes.

Additional Resources


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This page was last updated July 31, 2019.