Antonio "Tony" DaSilva of WritersUA wrote an article entitled "No Fuss Accessibility" that should be required reading for all technical writers. Joe Welinkske, user assistance consultant and evangelist at WritersUA, posted the article in the Technical Writer of Writers LinkedIn Group.
According to Tony, "Section 508 refers to specific parts of the "Rehabilitation Act of 1973" requiring Federal agencies and companies doing business on their behalf to provide Federal employees and members of the public with disabilities access to electronic information that is comparable to what is available for persons without disabilities."
I hear you saying to yourself,"Why should I care? I'm not a Federal employee. My company doesn't do business with the government." There are 100 million reasons to care: Per President Obama's proposal, it's going to cost $100 million to standardize all healthcare records and make them electronic in five years (per independent studies at Harvard, RAND, and the Commonwealth Fund in Massachusetts). Somebody's got to write, edit, and publish all this "accessible documentation," as it's being called.
Care a little bit more now? One of the biggest wins is that you can make your documents using just Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat, the two most popular tools for tech writers. The U.S. Government considers documents created with these two applications as being in compliance. Tony points out that the default versions are Word 2003 and Acrobat 7.
So, take 15 minutes and read Tony's article. He discusses successful techniques for converting Word docs to Acrobat pdfs. You'll be glad you did.
Tim Rosa is the founder and publisher of The Business Insider.