The thought of putting your website — which needs to remain accessible — in the hands of dozens of other colleagues, keeps you up at night.
What if they add dozens of photos without alternative (alt) text and I don't find it for months? And what about PDFs? Will they add captions to their videos? They're all so busy...how can I make sure the content they add is accessible?
Although keeping your website accessible and within ADA compliance is a commitment, it's absolutely essential. Twenty-six percent of the world population experiences some type of disability, and as important as accessibility is, not every admin updating your website will remember to add alt text and video captions.
Implementing the right software can ease your worries and ensure your website is accessible to everyone — no matter who is updating your website.
Here are six steps for maintaining an accessible website and how to establish a web accessibility program for your school.
1. Launch a new, accessible website
The process of creating and maintaining website content is certainly daunting. However, a fresh start — AKA, a website redesign — is most often the easiest way to begin the process.
Most districts and schools have hundreds of pages on their website, all of which may have been managed by dozens of individuals over the years — meaning it's very difficult to go back through and make all web content accessible. Starting from scratch will save your district time and money in the long run.
If you're in the market for a redesign, selecting a vendor who is trained and knowledgeable in website accessibility will be the key to your success.
2. Train your staff
Depending on the size of your district or school, you may have anywhere from five to a dozen individuals contributing to your website — maybe even more if you're a large district. Therefore, it is important that you train all website contributors in website accessibility standards for your website.
Train your staff in two key areas:
- What website accessibility means and
- How to make content accessible
Website accessibility isn't just about avoiding fines — it's about doing the right thing and making content accessible to all users. Accessible content reaches a wider audience and makes it easier to engage more members of your community. This is a situation where it's important to be proactive, rather than reactive.
Once you've trained staff in why accessibility matters, it's time to train them on how to ensure the content they add is, in fact, accessible. In a workshop-style setting while they have their laptops, show website admins how easy it is to add ALT text and provide style guidelines for using links, header text, and forms.
In addition, it is important to train staff on how to use and interpret accessibility testing tools, like Finalsite's accessibility checker, so that they may appropriately use them when adding website content.
3. Provide staff with guidelines
While in-person training is essential, written guidelines can be helpful for even the most tech-savvy user. Keep the written guidelines simple by avoiding complicated jargon and terms used in web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) that website admins may find confusing. Rather, show them how accessibility can be achieved on your website, in particular, using words and terms they understand.
In many cases, website admins will be adding text and photo content to the site, so it can be something as simple as asking:
- Does your image have ALT text? Y / N
- Does your video have captions and a transcript? Y / N
- Did you use headings and paragraph links? Y / N
- Can your links be understood by assistive technology out of context? Y / N
- Can you tab through the online form on the page? Y / N
4. Implement a formal editing process
One important safeguard you can put in place is a formal editing and approval process. Using website admin rights, you can select which website admins have the right to view, add, edit, or publish content.
By creating a small group of accessibility super-users who can review all website content before it gets posted, you'll ensure it meets WCAG and gets updated in a timely manner.
5. Minimize your use of PDFs
PDFs are the most difficult and time-consuming piece of content that needs to be made accessible. Although we've hosted webinars, shared blogs, and created guides on the topic, our districts agree: even with help, the process isn't easy.
Pro Tip: In many cases, the content of PDFs can be digitized into online calendars, forms, news articles, and even just simple website pages. Be sure to delete old, outdated files so that there is less content to maintain, and really, only use PDFs if you absolutely have to!
6. Choose a website provider that makes it easy
With more than 100 requirements as a part of WCAG, it's important to have a good foundation of support.
Schools, districts, and colleges that want to maintain an accessible website need both a website platform and an accessibility partner. (We've written a complete vendor checklist to help!)
Accessibility scanning tools scan your site and point out issues that are wrong, but offer no assistance in helping you. A remediation tool, like AudioEye, recommends quicks fixes for the accessibility errors on your website for you, saving you countless hours and headaches.
Establishing a web accessibility program for your school
Whether driven by legal requirements, humanitarian reasons, or to pursue the original vision for the web, making a concerted effort to maintain an accessible web presence is the right choice. Creating a culture of accessibility can be accomplished by taking the following actions:
1. Make a commitment and develop a plan:
Affirm your school's commitment to providing equal access and create a comprehensive plan that outlines the goals, strategies, and resources needed to improve website accessibility at your school, including:
Designate a web accessibility coordinator
Define who in your organization is responsible for monitoring and reporting on web accessibility. Think about involving key stakeholders in the accessibility program, such as students with disabilities, their families, and staff members.
Provide training to staff on web accessibility best practices and how to create accessible content. Make sure this employee has access to the training and resources needed to be successful.
Ensure all new content published is accessible
Make all of your web content and functionality accessible to people with disabilities.
Develop and implement a corrective action plan
Create a corrective action plan to prioritize and fix any errors.
Monitor compliance and regularly review and update
Have your web accessibility coordinator conduct regular audits on your website. Regularly review your website to ensure it remains accessible and in compliance with WCAG.
Continue to educate
Continuously educate staff and stakeholders on accessibility best practices and how to make the website more accessible.
2. Publish a way to report web accessibility problems
Make it easy for anyone to report a web accessibility problem on your site and promptly fix any problems reported. Creating a form for users to submit issues is a great idea.
3. Communicate your intentions
Communicate the accessibility program to the school community and make sure that everyone is aware of the efforts being made to make the website accessible to all.
Creating and maintaining an accessible website is no easy feat. It takes a lot of time, effort, training, and in some cases, more of the budget than you're willing to spend! However, with the right partners by your side and partners in place, there won't be any nightmares about OCR complaints in the near future — and that's priceless.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.