You've probably had this thought while grappling with school website accessibility: "Who exactly is responsible for making sure our school site is accessible to everyone?" It's a proverbial hot potato, and the answer isn't a simple one because website accessibility isn't just one person's job—it's a team effort.
School website accessibility is also a requirement—it's a commitment to your school's DEI efforts, and accessibility isn't a one-time thing: it's an ongoing commitment to ensure everyone can access and benefit from your digital content.
Even though accessibility is a vital part of your school's online presence, it doesn't have to require a large amount of time or resources. By focusing on three major players who typically have the most influence in this area: the content creator, the webmaster, and the developer, you can maintain an accessible website with ease.
The Role of the Content Creator
When it comes to school website accessibility, the content you add to your school's site is a major factor when it comes to meeting accessibility standards. As an editor or content creator, you're typically the one who controls the content and information on the site, including text, images, videos, graphics, and PDFs. Every piece of content should be created with accessibility in mind.
A key aspect of ADA compliance (Americans with Disabilities Act) is ensuring that all content is accessible, from writing meaningful alt text for images to ensuring videos have captions for those with visual or auditory disabilities. This extends to the language itself:
- Present content that can be perceived by multiple senses (audio and visual)
- Make sure your website can be easily operated and interacted with
- Avoid complex phrases and make text readable by breaking content into manageable chunks
- Ensure content can be interpreted by assistive technology
What if you stumble upon a content-related accessibility issue? First off, don't panic. Assess the problem, consider how it impacts the user, and think about potential solutions.
If your school is using Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, a built-in accessibility checker can identify common issues with alt text, improper heading usage, color contrast issues, and considerations for individuals with disabilities, which makes finding and resolving potential issues so much easier.
You're not alone in this, either. Consult with your webmaster and developer if you're unsure, and remember: you're all in this together.
The Role of the Webmaster
You can think of the Webmaster as the navigator of the site. They handle the specific design elements that make up each web page, including things like the structure of the page, form fields, buttons, and link descriptions. These elements are crucial to the user experience and play a big role in WCAG accessibility compliance (web content accessibility guidelines).
Each button, form field, and link should be properly labeled so they're accessible to people and ensure assistive technology, like screen readers, can interpret the content correctly. WCAG standards also account for your page structure needing to be logical and intuitive, helping all users, especially people with disabilities or those with cognitive disabilities, navigate your content easily.
If an OCR complaint flags a page-specific issue, don't consider it a setback, but an opportunity to improve your site's accessibility. Evaluate the complaint, identify the problematic content or design, and collaborate with your content creator and developer to rectify it.
Madison Metropolitan School District's Accessibility Statement details how the district puts accessibility at the forefront of its online experience. If an issue should arise, they've offered an online form for users to submit a message and help identify the problem.
Take note: keeping a door open for these types of submissions is a chance to make your site better and improve the online experience for everyone.
The Role of the Developer
Developers control the global aspects of a site's design, and prior to launch, elements like navigation menus, dynamic content, and the site layout should be designed with accessibility in mind. For instance, drop-down menus need to be keyboard navigable, and dynamic content needs to be structured so that screen readers can accurately interpret it.
During the design and deployment stage of your school's website, your developer will work closely with your team to balance your creative visions with your school's commitment to accessibility. If you're launching a website with Finalsite, an experienced Front End Developer will put your site through an 80+ point quality assurance process that includes testing for web accessibility, mobile-friendliness, cross-browser compatibility, and more.
A Coordinated Effort
It's crucial to understand that these roles aren't siloed. Just as the different parts of your school community work together to create an inclusive environment, so do these roles when ensuring website accessibility. Open communication is key—always be proactive in addressing potential issues and maintain a collaborative approach to troubleshooting.
Each role's responsibilities intersect with the others. Content creators must coordinate with the webmaster to ensure the content's structure is accessible. The webmaster and the developer need to work together to make sure the page and site elements work seamlessly. This team effort is what makes an accessible website possible.
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.