Hardware Testing Requirements

When Section 508/accessibility testing comes to mind, the first thought is typically electronic content, such as websites and documents. Certainly, ensuring that different types of electronic content is accessible is important, however, there is another major type of testing that plays a large role for individuals with disabilities that often becomes an afterthought. What is it, you may ask? Hardware testing. Hardware is another form of information and communications technology (ICT) that also needs to be tested for accessibility. Hardware covers the physical equipment type of ICT products.

In the Revised Section 508 Requirements, the U.S. Access Board defines hardware as “a tangible device, equipment, or physical component of ICT.” Examples of hardware are computers, printers, kiosks, virtual reality headsets, and displays. All of these are products and equipment that an individual can physically touch, pick up, hold, move around a room, etc. which indicates that it is hardware.

Any person with a disability, such as those with visual, auditory, physical, or cognitive disabilities, can be affected by inaccessible hardware. It is important to remember that disabilities can be temporary, acquired, or lifelong. Hardware that is designed to be inclusive and usable for all individuals, can eliminate challenges for everyone, including those with disabilities.

The requirements for hardware testing consist of 15 main sections which are:

  • 401 - General
  • 402 - Closed Functionality
  • 403 - Biometrics
  • 404 - Preservation of Information Provided for Accessibility
  • 405 - Privacy
  • 406 - Standard Connections
  • 407 - Operable Parts
  • 408 Display Screens
  • 409 - Status Indicators
  • 410 - Color Coding
  • 411 - Audible Signals
  • 412 - ICT with Two-Way Communication
  • 413 - Closed Caption Processing Technologies
  • 414 - Audio Description Processing Technologies
  • 415 - User Controls for Captions and Audio Descriptions

Below is a closer look at several of these requirements:

Under Closed Functionality, an individual should be able to fully access the machine, such as a kiosk or ATM, without needing to alter the machine. For example, an individual who does not have the ability to read text on a kiosk should be given the option to have the text read out loud.

Operable Parts consists of numerous requirements, one being Alphabetic Keys. The requirement states that “where provided, individual alphabetic keys shall be arranged in a QWERTY-based keyboard layout and the “F” and “J” key shall be tactilely distinct from other keys.” If an individual is required to input text and the keyboard layout is not QWERTY-based, an individual with a visual disability, for example, would not know the layout of the keys and would not be able to input the necessary text correctly as needed.

Status Indicators are something that can affect individuals with multiple types of disabilities. When status indicators are presented, status indicators should be discernible visually and by touch or sound. Closely related to this requirement is Audible Signals. When audible signals are presented, audible signals or cues should not be used as the only means of conveying information, indicating an action, or prompting a response. Information must be equally available for all users.

Similar to testing websites, documents, or any ICT, hardware testing requires that equal access is provided for all individuals. To learn more about hardware testing and requirements, please refer to the Revised 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines