What's the secret formula for choosing your school's website accessibility solution? In a world where every click and scroll matters, ensuring that your school's website is ADA-compliant and accessible to all is not only a moral imperative but a legal one.
It's a topic that's crucial for every school and district — it's more than just about having a visually appealing website; it's about ensuring that every visitor, regardless of their abilities, can access and navigate your site with ease.
And let's not forget the legal aspect – ADA compliance and meeting accessibility standards are essential to avoid an OCR (Office for Civil Rights) complaint that could result in costly penalties for your school or district.
What are the critical factors to consider when selecting the right accessibility solution? Here are some valuable insights and practical tips to make an informed decision that ensures your school's website is accessible to all, creating a welcoming and inclusive digital experience for everyone.
Understanding ADA Compliance and OCR Complaints
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. In terms of school websites, this means providing equal access to information and services for all users, regardless of their abilities. Non-compliance can result in OCR complaints, leading to potential legal issues and financial penalties.
By ensuring your school's website meets accessibility standards, you not only avoid the risk of OCR complaints but also create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all users.
Identifying your school's website accessibility needs
Before selecting a website accessibility solution, it is essential to assess your school's current needs for maintaining an ADA-compliant website and address potential accessibility issues, like
- Poor color contrast
- Lack of alt text for images
- Absence of keyboard navigation support
- Poor wording of CTAs and website content
To help identify areas that need improvement, consider using a simple checklist that covers various accessibility guidelines and meets (or exceeds) the latest WCAG guidelines (web content accessibility guidelines) for school websites.
Exploring website accessibility solutions
Wondering how to make your school's website accessible? There are several types of accessibility solutions available, each with its pros and cons:
- Automated tools: These tools can quickly identify and flag accessibility issues on your website. While they are cost-effective and efficient, they may not catch all errors, particularly those that require human judgment.
- Manual audits: Conducted by accessibility experts, manual audits provide a thorough review of your website's accessibility. However, they can be time-consuming and costly.
- Consulting services: Some companies offer consulting services to help schools develop and maintain accessible websites. This option can provide personalized guidance and ongoing support, but it may be more expensive than other solutions.
What to look for in an accessibility solution
When evaluating accessibility solutions, consider the following essential features:
- User-friendly interface: A solution with an easy-to-use interface can streamline the process of identifying and fixing accessibility issues.
- Comprehensive reporting and tracking: The solution should provide detailed reports on identified issues and track progress as improvements are made.
- Compatibility with your school's content management systems (CMS): To avoid complications, ensure that the solution you choose is compatible with your school's existing CMS.
- Regular updates and ongoing support: Choose a solution that offers regular updates to remain compliant with evolving accessibility standards and provides ongoing support for any issues that arise.
Evaluating the cost and return on investment (ROI)
When considering the cost of accessibility solutions, weigh it against the potential benefits. Investing in accessibility can help your school avoid costly OCR complaints and legal issues, while also improving the overall user experience for all website visitors. Consider the long-term value of creating an inclusive online presence that serves all members of your school community.
Gaining buy-in from key stakeholders
To get your school's website at WCAG standards, you'll need the support of administrators, staff, and your site's users. Present the importance of website accessibility by highlighting its legal and ethical implications, as well as the benefits it brings to the entire school community. To secure funding and support, consider sharing success stories from other schools that have successfully implemented accessibility improvements.
To manage your site's digital accessibility you will need to create a remediation plan for existing content and set a procedure for monitoring new content for accessibility. In order to create these plans, your team will need to set aside time to learn about ADA compliance for school websites, understand your site's accessibility health, and adopt a plan.
Remediating your site's existing content
Get a general sense of the current accessibility health of your site by performing an accessibility scan with an evaluation tool. *Note: Accessibility evaluation tools will only catch a percentage of errors, manual testing is needed to gauge the true accessibility health of your site. Look to:
- Create an accessibility statement and link it in your footer navigation
- Organize the results into errors, warnings, and items that need manual review
- Identify and remediate the content-related errors, focus first on the homepage, landing pages, and the pages with the highest traffic
- Continue to manually crawl the site to assess and remediate issues
- Correct the errors within the site content
- Reach out to third-party vendors to update their platforms to resolve issues
- Consider testing your pages with manual assistive technology, using your keyboard and a screen reader
Monitoring new content for your site
To monitor new content, you'll want to organize training for your content creators to learn how to create accessible web content and set up an accessibility procedure for anyone who can create, edit or publish pages.
Some considerations include:
- Consider tightening publishing permissions to only those that have been trained in accessibility
- Consider content that is fed in from other sources, including calendars and social media
- Set content standards for content creators (ie. No 'Click here' links or images of text)
- Create an accessibility statement and link it to your footer
Finalsite's content management system, Composer, features a built-in accessibility checker to ensure content is web accessible, flagging common issues like missing alt text, improper heading, and contrast issues.
Remember: Always test any new pages before publishing and monitor the entire site for accessibility requirements on an ongoing basis — accessibility is impacted every time new content is added or edits are made to existing content.
Remediation with an accessibility partner
Some services will evaluate and report on your site's accessibility; these reports can then be used by your team to determine what issues you can resolve in the site content. Other services, such as AudioEye, will analyze and monitor your web pages for you.
Remediating existing content
When you sign up for the AudioEye, you'll have an accessibility remediation and maintenance procedure that does not require nearly as much effort on your end.
When you partner with AudioEye, here's what happens:
- Schedule a kickoff call with the Support team to go over the implementation details and ask any questions about the process and how it's is used to communicate each phase of accessibility
- Send a communication to your constituents about your commitment to greater inclusivity through accessibility.
Monitoring new content
Unlike in-house procedures, AudioEye will send a report that provides a general outline of what accessibility issues were found and will make recommendations for future content.
However, you can still take some steps to minimize the amount of inaccessible content being added to your site.
- From the reports, your team can set up an accessibility procedure for your content creators. Consider tightening publishing permissions to only those that have been trained in accessibility
- Set content standards for content creators (ie. No 'Click Here' links or images of text)
- Create an accessibility statement and link it to your footer
An in-house option may appear more affordable at first, however, the costs of hiring an in-house accessibility specialist, or even mitigating an OCR complaint, often makes this option more costly. The AudioEye managed service helps to eliminate the risk of an OCR complaint and manages your site's content for you — saving you time and money in the long run.
Choosing the right website accessibility solution for your school is crucial in ensuring ADA compliance and stopping a user from filing a complaint. By understanding your school's needs, exploring available solutions, and considering essential features, you can make an informed decision that benefits
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Will spends his days guiding a team of quality assurance professionals to ensure that the websites that we create meet Finalsite's quality and accessibility standards. He also guides Finalsite's cross-functional accessibility committee, helping to coordinate accessibility initiatives across Finalsite's diverse teams. Along with chasing around two crazy daughters, Will is working towards his Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) credential.