Web accessibility and ADA compliance. These two phrases took the public education industry by storm in 2017 as district professionals took one of two routes: duck and cover, or face the storm head on. Districts who faced the storm immediately invested in accessibility solutions, keeping in mind that prevention is always cheaper (and less stressful) than reaction. And the districts that opted for "duck and cover," are just now waking up to find an industry that cares even more about accessibility than they did last year.
For Gary Mattei, Director of Technology, and Kat Lawyer, Systems Specialist and Web Master, of Avon Grove School District — a public K-12 school district with four schools and an enrollment of 5,200 students in Southeastern Pennsylvania — "duck and cover" was never an option, for a few main reasons:
- First, they're a smaller district with limited resources and numerous webmasters, so they needed an accessibility solution that would offer them support.
- Second, they wanted to maintain their position as a forward leaning district, and accessibility would soon become a piece of that.
- And third, they never wanted the threat of an OCR complaint on the table, or anywhere near the table.
And so, the search for their accessibility solution began.
"Houston, We Have a Problem"
As Gary and Kat began to research accessibility tools to meet the WCAG 2.0 guidelines in advance of updated requirements under Section 508 in January 2018, they quickly realized one thing — almost every single accessibility tool was limited to simple scan and report functionality. This wasn't going to work for Avon Grove.
"We have about 30-35 different individuals of all skill levels editing the website," said Gary.
"We simply just don't have the resources to run a report of issues and find time to fix them all to remain compliant."
And of course, this begs the question, who does?
Scanning tools — even those that districts pay thousands for — spit out lengthy reports of content issues that most district professionals don't have the time, or the resources, to fix.
"We knew the requirements for ADA-related accessibility under Section 508 were going to be updated and wanted to be sure we were on track to stay ahead of the curve," said Gary. "The initial implementation was going to be a full time job, and we very quickly realized that we were going to use support."
In addition to their own research, the duo admit to receiving hundreds of emails and phone calls about accessibility solutions. And it was all just noise — until learning about AudioEye, the same accessibility solution used by federal agencies, such as the FCC and whose technology has been reviewed and validated with the Dept. of Education Office for Civil Rights — and who it just so happens, is Finalsite's tried and true accessibility partner.
"None of the other options looked like they were going to be easy or cheap, so in my mind it was a no brainer to have AudioEye — the third-party application used by the FCC, other Federal agencies, businesses and hundreds of financial institutions. We knew it would be secure and effective," said Gary.
The AudioEye Solution
So...what was it exactly that made AudioEye stand out from the rest of the industry tools? Two words: Managed. Service.
AudioEye's technology and managed service provides an end-to-end solution that means your district doesn't need to worry. You sign up for the managed service, Finasite manages the preliminary implementation, and AudioEye does the rest. This means when reports are run, the AudioEye team handles any accessibility errors — not you.
You can bet that was music to Gary and Kat's ears.
Once Avon Grove chose AudioEye as their partner, their anticipated financial and resource investment dropped. "Both AudioEye and Finalsite worked together to make it more affordable, and we kicked off the project in July 2017," said Gary.
According to Kat, the process was easy. "The process was pretty hands-off from our end," she said. "It was staged out, they sent us a questionnaire and kept in constant communication during the roll-out."
The roll-out was three phases, each implementing an additional layer of accessibility onto the Avon Grove site. "Everything ran smoothly and on time," said Kat.
Each stage in the process represents reaching a different level of accessibility.
- Phase 1: Compliance - In this phase, you'll have a Certification on the site to inform users you have started your path to accessibility and compliance with ADA-related requirements. The AudioEye Compliance Accelerator technology is embedded in the site and begins to automatically fix the most common errors.
- Phase 2: Conformance - During this phase, both automatic and manual remediation is taking place by the Accessibility Engineer team to ensure your website is maximizing its conformance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA Success Criteria. The Certification is updated to reflect the status of your compliance.
- Phase 3: Certification - In this final phase of the process, AudioEye deploys the Ally Toolbar to provide an improved user experience to all website visitors, including the Help Desk and AudioEye Trusted Certification. The AudioEye Trusted Certification illustrates your district's commitment to accessibility and lets all visitors to your site know, you are continually striving to maintain accessibility on your site. The Help Desk provides a life line to end users, giving them the opportunity to report accessibility and usability related issues, should they encounter any. These go directly to AudioEye Support so they can address any issues and communicate, as needed, with end-users. Perhaps the most exciting thing that occurs during Phase 3 is that the AudioEye Accessibly Engineer team begins auditing the site monthly to catch any accessibility issues that may arise in new content, such as forgotten ALT text, etc. (This means the Avon Grove team doesn't have any work to do when reports are run!)
Since the launch of the Ally Toolbar, Kat, Gary and the entire Avon Grove community are pleased. Most importantly, they can rest easy knowing Finalsite and AudioEye have them covered on the website accessibility front to help them avoid ADA or OCR-related action.
"With an OCR complaint, even if you win, you lose," he said. "There's all types of associated fees with it. For Avon Grove, we wanted to avoid an OCR complaint at all costs — but we didn't have the time, resources, or formally-trained personnel to do so. Finalsite and AudioEye gave us an affordable, workable solution for accessibility that saves us time and money — and we don't have to do the heavy lifting."
Leading the Way
When Avon Grove redesigned their website almost three years ago, they were ahead of the times with their sleek design and embedded videos that change on a regular basis. And of course, they didn't want to sacrifice the design their community loves to become ADA compliant.
Enter the Finalsite and AudioEye solution.
"We consider our homepage to be the front door to our community, whether it is a family considering a move here, or a relative of a current resident, we want our homepage to be usable, to reflect where we've gone and where we're going," said Gary. "Adding AudioEye is part of that, and has enhanced our position as a forward-leaning district in the state."
Does your district sound like Avon Grove? Request an accessibility analysis today to see how Finalsite and AudioEye can help you!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, and Marketing Manager for Public Schools, Mia creates content that is helpful to public schools and districts. 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.