5 Steps to Building and Maintaining an ADA-Compliant Website
Mia Major

We're officially halfway through August, which according to our ADA compliance timeline, means it is time to be in the website redesign process. Despite this, we've spoke to hundreds of school districts are still yet to begin their redesign, or even select a vendor to achieve ADA compliance.

Despite the importance of achieving AA compliance, many school districts are still falling victim to a lack of time, budget, or staffing — or some combination of the three. And then of course, there is also the small segment group of districts who are forging ahead with their current website and the "this won't happen to us," mindset.

But, listen up: no more excuses! These are federal regulations. There are thousands of individuals in the U.S. with a disability. This is something you should care about on both a moral and institutional level. As importantly and as unfortunate, there are plenty of people who would like to troll your website and find a reason to file a lawsuit on behalf of someone else.

That being said, this issue begs the question: how does my school district achieve and maintain ADA compliance?

compliance graphic

Step 1: Be Aware of the Extensiveness of the Issue

ADA compliance stretches far beyond adding ALT text to every photo. Sure, it's a start. But, there are 182 requirements that districts need to be familiar with and stay on top of to maintain AA compliance within WCAG 2.0 requirements.

Let's repeat that: 182!! Just knowing all of these demands quite a bit of training on the subject, never mind the ongoing training to keep up as requirements change. With an average of 3-5 editors per website, and some districts with nearly 100 schools...there is a lot of room for error.

If your district's website is more than 2 years old, and/or you've had more than one person updating content, you'll need to conduct steps 2-5.

Step 2: Scan your district website for free.

Free tools, like WebAim's WAVE tool, give you an idea of the state of your website. A district that has not been monitoring their website accessibility for a few years will see that there are easily 25,000 flags that need to be reviewed, and corrections applied. A district that has recently launched a new website will most likely still get hundreds of flags that need to be reviewed each week.

While this tool won't tell you how to fix your website, it will give you the type of data and information you need to make the case for a new website. From here, you will want to begin shopping for a website provider, as the January 18, 2018 deadline is fast-approaching.

Finalsite has partnered with AudioEye to provide a free accessibility summary and analysis.

Request an Audit

Step 3: Select a Website Provider

Once you've secured a budget, you'll want to inquire with your current website provider to determine if they offer the type of tools and support required to obtain and maintain an ADA-compliant website. In most cases of accessibility, open source solutions like Wordpress will do more harm than good.

When selecting your website provider for ADA compliance, consider the following:

  • Design Experience: Is the website provider both savvy in design and ADA-compliant design? One challenge districts face is that in order to make their site complaint, they must sacrifice the design. At least at Finalsite, we make sure our clients don't have to make that kind of sacrifice.
  • Redesign Timeline: After January 18, 2018, the OCR will begin citing districts who are not ADA compliant, so you'll want to work with a provider who can get your district site live before then (or shortly thereafter).
  • Website Platform: Will the website platform make updating your website easy? What kind of safeguards are in place to ensure not everyone has publishing rights?
  • Content migration: While we recommend starting "fresh" with your new website, in most cases, some content will need to be brought over, so work with a vendor who is willing to help.
  • Simplicity of ongoing maintenance: Does the website platform make it easy to ensure the website maintains ADA compliance?

Step 4: Select a Website Accessibility Partner

In addition to your website partner, you'll want to select a website accessibility partner. While this comes at an additional cost, this preventative measure will cost you less in the long-term. Most schools are familiar with the scan/report tools for accessibility. With scan/report tools, there's about a five-day window between when content is updated, and when it can be identified by the tool. Then, once the errors are identified, one of your website admins will need to go in and manually fix them. While scan/report tools are a common solution for districts, we know that the main issue districts face is staffing and time — making tools like this not all that helpful.

Because we understand this pain point, we've partnered with AudioEye, the industry-leader in web accessibility to offer districts a discounted rate on accessibility software that automatically detects and fixes non-compliant content, saving you time and a lot (a lot!) of headaches. AudioEye's advanced software also includes a toolbar embedded on your district's website, that offers website visitors with a disability the opportunity to personalize their experience.

AudioEye toolbar

Step 5: Create a Plan for Ongoing Maintenance

Depending on the website provider and accessibility partner you select, you will also have to come up with an ongoing maintenance plan. Who updates the website, and when? If you go with a scan/report tool, who is responsible for making the updates detected by the tool? How do you prioritize items? What do you do if you get a fine from the OCR?

With dozens of website content contributors at your district, implementing a maintenance plan will be key to ensuring your website remains compliant. At Finalsite, we guarantee that the website design we provide to your district will meet AA requirements. We take a lot into consideration during deployment — like color contrast, ALT text, links, page structure, and so on — however, from the moment we hand the website over to you, content and accessibility is in your hands.

Our recommended tool for ongoing maintenance is AudioEye, because of its robust capabilities and ability to automatically correct errors without added effort from your team.

Want to see AudioEye's accessibility software in action? Request a demo today!

Request a Demo

The Investment of an Accessible Website

In all candidness, building and maintaining a compliant website isn't going to be cheap. To avoid a fine and maintain compliance, your district has three options:

  • Option 1: Don't make any investment in new software and risk receiving multiple fines from the OCR — in one case, this cost a district $800,000. So, while the cost up front is $0, you run the risk of spending a lot more money down the road.
  • Option 2: Hire an individual to manage your website and maintain compliance. This investment will cost upwards of $100,000 when you factor in salary and other training expenses.
  • Option 3: Invest in your website and accessibility partner. This investment ranges on the size of your district, but can cost as little as $40,000 per year.

WCAG 2.0, ADA, and OCR: Making Sense of Website Accessibility


Mia Major

As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV 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.

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