Digital Content Translation for the Visually Impaired

Last Updated On: October 2, 2019

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Digital Content Translation

Disabled people and in particular those who are visually impaired require translation just as much as anyone else. These days, in the U.S. at least, companies that take on government contracts are required to deliver translations of digital documents that match the requirements for the visually and hearing impaired. These are characterised as digital content translations under Section 508.

How Section 508 is linked to translation and localization.

Today more than 20 percent of web users have a disability of some kind. If your translated content is compliant with Section 508 then you can expect to get a 20 percent higher customer interest in your product. To add to that any digital content that has been paid for with federal money must be compliant with section 508.

What Is Section 508?

Section 508 of the 1973 federal Rehabilitation Act requires that all federal agencies must produce and maintain accessible electronic information. The Act makes it easier for those with disabilities to access web and digital content so they can use it more effectively. This includes web pages, web applications and any attached files. The content should be able to be viewed on mobile devices, on websites or in digital documents.


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    In mid 2011, the Obama Administration was instrumental in introducing the Section 508 Strategic Plan. This was designed to boost transparency and enable improved access for everyone to government information and data. All multimedia publications have to incorporate texts that are readable by those who are visually impaired or hard of hearing.

    In order to ensure digital content is more accessible, it could include the use of:

    • text boxes and oral descriptions of photos for use by anyone who has lost their sight completely.
    • multimedia with transcription and captions suitable for the hearing impaired.
    • content that can be navigated in the absence of a mouse for those with coordination impairments
    • use of simple, logical English for anyone with cognitive impairment.

    Because at least 20% of the web audience is inflicted with some sort of disability updating digital content to be compliant with section 508 means your digital content can reach out to the elderly anyone with disabilities.

    Statistics for disabled people in the U.S.

    • 4 million face a visual disability;
    • 5 million face a hearing disability;
    • 8 million face a cognitive disability.

    On average, in the U.S., 13.2 million need to deal with at least one disability so being compliant with Section 508 means having access to 20 percent more people than before. If your organization fails to reach the Section 508 criteria a disabled person can file a lawsuit because you have failed to provide accessibility to all to your digital content.

    Localisation and accessibility are important under Section 508

    If the disabled population doesn’t speak English well it will be necessary to both localize and make accessible digital content. When the digital content or a website is translated specific attention has to be focused on translating all metadata and alt tags so that digital readers can decipher the to be suitable for disabled users. For example, on a website, there could be audio, graphics, images and/or multimedia.

    Graphics must include alt tag descriptions for visually impaired which describe the graphics. So they are compliant with the localizations and translations, must translate the alt tags into the targeted languages to enable readers to understand the content. Under Section 508 graphics need to be accompanied by transcripts and subtitles as needed as well as being translated and localized.

    A key advantage of creating accessibility for digital content improves SEO and has a favourable impact on rank amongst the search engines. Additionally, the content will perform better on different types of devices, which is important for compliance with Section 508.

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