Currently, schools and districts are scrambling to meet a federal regulation and avoid a fine from the Office of Civil Rights. But accessibility is about more than just meeting a deadline or avoiding a fine; it's about inclusion and making website experiences and content accessible for all. It has become so important to have accessible website content because over 1 billion people (15% of the world's population) live with some type of disability.
As part of our Website Accessibility Webinar Series this fall, Tyler D'Amore, Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC/IAAP) at AudioEye, recently led the webinar The Basics of Accessible Website Content alongside Finalsite's Educational Sales Consultant for Public Schools John Doornbos. This webinar is very timely: January 18, 2018 marks the ADA compliance deadline for websites of federally-funded schools, and is helpful for schools and districts looking to make content updates over the next two months.
This webinar answered questions many individuals have had on the basics of website accessibility, why your school website and content needs to be accessible, and how the Finalsite and AudioEye partnership could help get your school website on the path towards compliance before the fresh deadline in January.
Website Accessibility 101
Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can more effectively consume information and participate equally online. Today, we are living in a digital world where many individuals use websites and multiple devices to retrieve information. As we continue to see our world moving into a digital space with almost everything we do, we need to make sure we do not allow individuals with the range of disabilities and impediments fall behind because they do not have equal access to digital content.
It's first important to rethink the term "disability." A couple relevant statistics shared in the webinar include:
- 1 in every 68 children in the US is affected by Autism
- 10% of the population has dyslexia
- 75% of people with disabilities (more than 39 million people) use computers today
- More than 66% of them use some form of accessible technology
Some of the disabilities impacted by web accessibility include:
For schools in particular, the way students are learning has now changed with this digital space. Many students are now logging onto an LMS to complete homework online. Therefore, if a student has a learning disability and your school site is not accessible, they will have difficulty completing simple tasks such as assignments.
Fortunately, there are various assistive technologies, or specific devices, that help an individual with a disability access a website. For example, users who are blind or visually impaired will often use screen readers. Yet, if your school website is not fully accessible, the screen reader device will be unable to interact with the website to translate the content to the user. Remember, anything you are sharing digitally has to be accessible in all forms.
Watch this on demand webinar at your convenience!
Understanding WCAG 2.0
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, referred to as WCAG, are guidelines for improving web accessibility. Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG are the accepted means of making a website accessible and usable to the widest audience possible. There are four principles under WCAG that are key to follow so your website content sustains accessibility: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR).
Perceivable means you should provide text alternatives for any non-text content (images/videos), and in general, offer content on your website that can be presented in different ways without losing information or structure, like a simpler layout. This also should make it easier for users to see and/or hear content on your site.
Operable means all functionality on your website should be available from a keyboard. It should also allow users enough time to read and use content, and offer ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
Understandable means text content is readable for all users, and helps users avoid and correct mistakes when viewing content.
Robust means you content should be accessible at maximum compatibility so individuals using assistive technologies can also comprehend.
Incorporating all four principles onto your school site means you will create more usable, accessible content for your end user.
Why Your Website and Content Needs to Be Accessible
There are three main reasons why your website and content needs to be accessible:
- It's the right thing to do: Remember, 15% - 20% of the world's population has some kind of disability. So, you need to make sure everyone has equal access to your school website and all the valuable content on it.
- It's required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Title II of Americans with Disability Act requires there be an equal opportunity for those with disabilities to access websites as a public interface. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was also passed to ensure that every child in America receives equal access to education.
- The 508 Refresh deadline is approaching: On January 18, 2018, it will be required that all federally funded educational institutions meet AA compliance under WCAG 2.0. This is your chance to be proactive, save money, and expedite content that is accessible for users now.
So...What Website Content Might Not Be Accessible?
A lot of it, actually. There are multiple features on you website that still may not be accessible, including headings, images, links, colors, forms, etc. The keys to ADA-compliant website content are therefore straightforward.
Photos and videos are two of the most obvious forms of content that need to be accessible. To ensure your images and videos are accessible, including ALT text and captions will help describe what is happening in this visual content to someone with a disability. Without adding this description, all an individual will see is the name of the file you uploaded.
When it comes to navigation and usability of your website, forms, for example, should have the option to move from one field to the next using the tab button so a keyboard only use is able to complete the form like any other user.
It's imperative to follow universal design principles all your website to assure this ADA compliance is met. This means having more content that is accessible for anyone viewing it, and cross-checking that all content on your website is usable for all audiences.
Okay, Then What Can You Do About It?
Our partnership with AudioEye has helped many K12 districts, colleges, universities and private schools achieve their goals of website accessibility through their patented technology and proprietary processes. Our goal is to ensure every one of your website visitors has the same great experience, and working with AudioEye allows us to offer key information on this for any school to achieve ADA compliance on their website.
Features available to schools include:
- Turnkey Solutions and Speed to Compliance
- Beautiful, Functional, and Fully Accessible Websites
- Continual Monitoring
- AudioEye Platform is aligned with 508 Refresh
- Help Desk
- AudioEye Toolbar for greater usability for all visitors
This Toolbar is a great resource for users to verify the website they are on has been monitored and checked for ADA compliance. AudioEye even lists an accessibility certification to note what phase the website is currently at in this monitoring process:
Additional Website Accessibility Resources
We understand how important website accessibility now is for many schools. Dive into more best practices on ADA compliance and accessibility from the Certified Accessibility Experts we partner with at AudioEye. You can also learn more about how you can achieve ADA website compliance with us here.
Upcoming Accessibility Webinars
How to Make Your Website PDFs Accessible | Nov. 16
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie brings a fresh new marketing perspective with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and is passionate about helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments. She is also a practicing singer/songwriter and loves to expand her creativity in DIY projects.