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5 Reasons Accessibility is Critical for Your School District
Connor Gleason

Over the last several years, community advocates and the U.S. Department of Education have escalated the expectations that all digital content on school websites must be accessible to all users.

Schools and districts utilize their websites to provide school communications, resources, and information to students, parents, and the community, but unfortunately, they are not always accessible to a large portion of users — people with disabilities.

Between Oct. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) received almost 19,000 complaints, a number more than double the previous year. And while those complaints are varied and include alleged discrimination based on disability, race, or sex, the majority of complaints allege discrimination against students with disabilities.

Most websites can meet web accessibility standards by making a few design and style changes, but website accessibility is not just a question of page design — it's a question of enabling any single visitor to find the relevant information they need without barriers. Here are five critical reasons why you need to make your district's site accessible.

1. It's ethically & morally right to make school websites inclusive

Accessible content should be able to be accessed by every visitor to your site, especially those with disabilities. Those with disabilities have the right need and the right to engage with our content.

When a school or district website has inaccessible content, not all visitors to the site can equally receive and understand the content. which creates barriers to finding valuable information. Those with disabilities may feel that by not making the site accessible, they're being overlooked – and they'd be right!

Why should content be accessible?

Accessible content reaches a wider audience, assists those with disabilities, and follows the law. But any way you slice it, creating accessible content for people means putting people at the center of your content. When creating content that meets WCAG (web content accessibility guidelines) standards and ADA compliance, create content that’s POUR:

  • Perceivable: Information is presented to users in ways they can identify content and elements by means of the senses. (Sight and sound).
  • Operable: A user can operate controls, buttons, navigation, and other interactive elements without relying on a mouse.
  • Understandable: Web content should be written as clearly and simply as possible — users need to be able to comprehend the information, so don't use overly complicated words, acronyms, or jargon.
  • Robust: Content must be compatible with a wide variety of browsers, systems, and assistive technologies, like screen readers.

Free Online Course: Building Accessibility into Your Communications Plans

2. People with disabilities have a legal right

ADA requirements and web accessibility standards were invented to make life easier for people with disabilities—who, like everyone else, want and need to access web content.

Communication relies on the senses and if users cannot perceive content, that’s an issue. Everyone, regardless of ability, is on the web, and the web shouldn’t be a barrier — your school community shouldn’t change to be to reach the content, the content should change to be accessible to everyone in your school community.

Free Website Report Card | Finalsite3. The OCR sets regulations for schools to follow

Being accessible is the law. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is tasked with making education accessible for all students and school communities. It's imperative that you stay up-to-date on these laws and regulations because when updates are made new compliance standards are set. These rules and regulations are critical and must be taken seriously to prevent your district from receiving a formal complaint.

screenshot of Highline's website- a teacher in a classroom

After receiving a complaint from the OCR, the Highline Public Schools communications team worked with the Finalsite Deployment team to launch a custom and accessible website and 32 individual school sites in less than three months.

“We wanted to make our website accessible, so we knew that we would need to find the right vendor,” said Tove Tupper, the district’s director of communications. “We wanted to fix the accessibility issues, have the tools to help our brand come to life, and of course, customer service was a big piece, too.”

Keep reading about Highline's success story and its promise to this school community.

4. Accessibility builds loyalty & trust

Online review sites give everyone the power to write reviews that have a significant impact on community perceptions. A public relations issue created because there's a notion that your school or district does not support individuals with disabilities can be detrimental.

If your competitor’s website is not accessible and yours is, guess which site will receive more visitors and traffic? Remember, other schools are your competition. Those schools that are speaking to the quarter of the population who have a disability will see better engagement.

With Finalsite's content management system, Composer, built-in accessibility tools can help your school's website stay in compliance and reach a wider audience. That includes support for adding Alternative (alt) Text and video caption files, an accessibility checker within the WYSIWYG editor, and the ability to search for and remove photos with missing Alt text.

And, integration with AudioEye helps find, fix, and monitor over 400 accessibility issues to ensure equal access to your site for all users — that's an accessibility win/win.

5. Web accessibility will increase your reach in your community

Accessible content reaches a wider audience and in terms of your school or district's marketing goals, helps cast a wider net. So many of the web-accessible standards fall in line with the best practices of SEO optimization, which can only favor your online search rankings.

Furthermore, up to 26 percent of the people in the United States have some type of disability. If you aren’t optimizing your site for accessibility, you could be missing one-quarter of your audience.

Key takeaway

Website accessibility means giving people equal access to the web and enabling every user to access content in whichever way they choose on your site. Not only is it the law, but building accessibility into your school's website and communications plan welcomes a wider audience to your school community.

Register for a free online course: Building accessibility into Your Communications Plans

Connor Gleason Headshot


Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

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