The lowdown on section 508

What are they? Section 508 compliance tools automatically detect and document accessibility failures. Many tools also will correct the problems.

How well do they work? These tools can help agencies identify problems fairly quickly and inexpensively.

But don't expect any single tool to handle everything. They're not 100 percent accurate at detecting problems, and, because many of Section 508's requirements are open to interpretation, human judgement will come into play.

How do I know if they will work? Test products against your Web sites and applications before buying.

It's also helpful to buy plug-ins so staff developers will not have to leave their favorite environments to repair pages.

Price? They range from free or very inexpensive online services and plug-ins to server applications that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Their value lies in how big a job you have at hand.

Must know info? Be aware that not every tool effects repairs. If that's what you want it to do, make sure it has that feature. And if your goal is true accessibility'not just compliance with Section 508's mandate'consider going beyond the minimal 508 guidelines to stricter Priority 2 or 3 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines recommendations.

Most of these tools handle both standards. Even better, have people with disabilities do your testing.

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