If you’re a school, then it certainly does. Not only because the laws for this are being enforced but it’s also an important that you eliminate any barriers to your school’s website for people with disabilities. Today, most people use technology and the web to manage almost all aspects of their lives, even if they have a disability.
Photo by Dorey Group
15%-20% of the population are affected with some type of disability. That means 15%-20% of the people that visit your school’s website have a disability as well. In addition to becoming ADA compliant being moral, it also affects the reputation of the school as well.
What’s it mean to be accessible on a website?
Normally, you might think of a disabled person not being mobile, or being in a wheelchair. But there are many areas of the web that are difficult to access because of a disability. If someone doesn’t have full use of their hands, how would that affect their experience on your website? Can you mouse, or use voice controls to access any portion of the site?
What about visually impaired people who are using a screen reader to read your website, can they read the same info that everyone else can on your site?
The best school websites are fully accessible for anyone with any disability. ADA compliance makes us take a look at our websites more closely, and that’s a good thing!
What does an accessible school website look like?
The goal is to meet the standards of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). By doing this, you’re not only giving access to the the disabled community, you’re also building better web practices through faster web loading speeds, having better search results and all around giving more attention to detail.
Here are some of the typical areas where ADA site complains focuses on:
- Keyboard navigation usage to anywhere inside of the website.
- Cutting out color contrasts that make viewing the site impossible or difficult for visually challenged people.
- Giving alternative text to images and videos so the visually impaired have access to all of the information on the website.
This is just a small sample of the larger list in Section 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, but it’s a good start for anyone who’s not familiar with being ADA compliant. This will give school administrators an idea on how to set up and what to look for when going through the compliance process.
Here’s How To Comply
If you’re a school, it can be difficult to find time to address these issues, and hard to know where to start. Here’s a quick guide on the best way to go about it:
- Find and use a free website accessibility evaluation tool, check your website page by page.
- Look for and write down all of the times your website isn’t ADA compliant on each page. Make a to do list of things to add like ALT text, or visual text for videos. If you use a CMS system, this process might be a bit easier to work through if you review the training for your software.
- Since there are probably a number of people working on or contributing to your website (developers, administrators and writers), you need a written policy to set ADA compliant standards when working with or updating your website in the future.
- Make a strategy and plan to implement. Fixing all of the ADA issues in-house can be time consuming, so set deadlines and make sure you keep up with the items as they become compliant.
- Take initiative. Help the team members understand why you’re doing this and what the endgame is.
- Walk through page by page and review your website for accessibility issues. There are tools online that will help you create a smoother review of your entire site.
- Train everyone involved in touching your website on how to be compliant, this is the law.
- Conduct regular checks to see if you are maintaining your accessibility standards.
Just a note. You normally don’t need an expensive annual reporting subscription to see if you are ADA compliant or not. You do have to check each page, but there are tools out there that allow you to do that for free.
School website management is critical if your school is going to be successful in the future. It’s your customer service portal, your student portal,and your school’s digital footprint. Whether you manage these aspects alone or get some help, compliance needs to happen.
Bonnie is the founder of School Webmasters and has been helping schools improve their digital presence for over 14 years. She’s managed over 700 schools and loves sharing what she knows about the web.