Time is ticking: the website accessibility deadline is just a little more than five months away. Still, many federally-funded educational institutions have still not taken a step towards making their website accessible. This first step is selecting a new website provider.
When selecting a website vendor, numerous qualities — aside from ADA compliance capability — come into play, including:
- Design expertise and capability
- Training processes
- Website redesign timeline
- Website platform
- Content migration
- Partnerships with other providers and solutions
- Simplicity of ongoing maintenance
That last capability, simplicity of ongoing maintenance, is arguably the most important. Generally speaking, school districts have at least two website contributors per school. But many of them have a lot more than that — especially if they use teacher pages.
That being said, I'm about to let you in on a little secret: no single CMS provider can promise you this. Ensuring that your district's website is always meeting all 182 WCAG 2.0 requirements isn't something that a single CMS provider can offer. There are technical requirements, design requirements, and content requirements — each of which requires a certain expertise and software.
So, if you've been chatting with a potential CMS provider who promises you they're your all-in-one solution for achieving AA WCAG 2.0 compliance, I encourage you to call their bluff. (And if you've already purchased a new web solution, I encourage you to run your website through this free accessibility evaluation tool).
On-Demand Webinar: Learn how to make your website accessible by the January 2018 deadline.
A CMS provider can usually only help with ⅓ - ⅔ of the problem.
"Conforming to WCAG 2.0 AA requires CMS providers to take certain steps," said Ty D'Amore, accessibility specialist at AudioEye, Finalsite's preferred accessibility partner. "It also requires that those publishing content (and using the CMS to do so) take certain steps — meaning conformance is impossible without both parties taking into account the various conformance considerations that apply to each unique role."
For example, a CMS provider can do all the necessary things to ensure site structure, site elements and web components are designed and developed to conform to be WCAG AA compliant. But, once the site goes live, it's no longer in the hands of the CMS provider, it's in the hands of the website publishers.
Now, of course, you've selected website publishers and webmasters that you trust to ensure they always add ALT text, follow structural guidelines, and so forth. But, there's no real guarantee.
For example, if a website publisher uses the customization options built into the CMS to change colors, they might not also be considering the impact those customizations will have on accessibility. This same example can hold true for authoring content that includes a link, adding meaningful plain text, and structuring content.
"There are lots of examples of how an accessible website can quickly become inaccessible via a CMS," said Ty. "For web publishers, it's important they are made aware of the accessibility issues and how to avoid them."
For that final ⅓, you need an accessibility partner.
Educating web publishers isn't always practical or full-proof. Even when you educate, there will always be someone who is in a rush, someone who is careless, and someone who honestly just forgot. But these kind of mistakes can result in fines from the federal government that can cost your district thousands of dollars.
Tips for choosing a website accessibility partner
Choosing an accessibility partner is equally as important as selecting your school's CMS provider, as this partner will be the key to maintaining WCAG 2.0 compliance and web accessibility.
There are two key considerations for this partner:
- Relationship with your current website provider: Selecting a web accessibility partner that your web provider works with and trusts will make for a better experience for everyone.
- Discounts, if any: If you can find a website provider who offers discounts when working with an accessibility partner, you'll be able to save thousands annually.
Finalsite and AudioEye's Strategic Partnership
For twenty years, Finalsite has served up the industry's most prestigious designs on an innovative and reliable CMS platform. When we build a website, we take a lot into consideration in on our website production and deployment team, as well as on our product team. As a matter-of-fact, we guarantee a compliant website when our team hands it over to your's.
However, we're candid in admitting that we depend on our accessibility partners to provide schools and districts the tools they need to ensure accessibility after that point. And our preferred partner to work with is AudioEye.
We chose AudioEye as our preferred accessibility partner for numerous reasons, but one in particular: time. Ensuring web accessibility is a time-consuming and cumbersome process, and AudioEye saves you time by automatically analyzing, identifying and fixing a high number of accessibility issues. By reducing the accessibility auditing workload through automation, AudioEye is able to provide a practical and cost-effective solution for our customers. For those school districts needing support in complying with OCR resolution agreements, AudioEye also provides the expertise, training, and support to assist school districts through the process, from start to finish, including the tough part - maintaining conformance over time.
With their software, you can:
- Track outstanding errors that require manual intervention
- A unique script applied to your website that automatically fixes certain common accessibility errors
- Assist your website visitors who use different technologies: AudioEye's Ally Toolbar provides your users with free assistive tools that make your website easier to use.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.