Glenbrook High School District 225
Months ago, David Olson fractured his ankle.
“I went to the doctor's office, and they didn't have a push button for the door,” Olson remembered. “I had to stand there on my scooter, waiting for someone to open it for me. Oftentimes you don't realize what's not there until you actually need it.”
Accessibility is crucial for every school website, but as Olson, a longtime school communications pro, quickly discovered, putting accessibility into practice is more complex than it might appear. “Accessibility can be extremely overwhelming; there are so many components to it.”
Achieving web accessibility can be a moving target for any district, and as Olson faced with his previous district, it can be a significant barrier to communicating with the larger school community.
Now, as the communications manager at Glenbrook High School District 225 in Glenview, Illinois, Olson and the district are determined to cater to the diverse needs of all students, staff, and family members, partnering with Finalsite to create a more user-friendly, more welcoming and more accessible website experience for all users
District 225 offers a public education to more than 5,000 students in Glenview, Illinois, about 25 miles north of Chicago. Glenbrook North and South High Schools offer students an excellent educational experience. In addition to its two high schools, the district also offer alternative learning through its Glenbrook Off-Campus.
A District's Need for Web Accessibility
With deeper insight into the challenges faced by individuals who require accommodations but don’t always receive them, Olson started with an impactful first step: making Glenbrook’s website more accessible.
“We choose our vendors because the platform can provide accessibility,” Olson said, “but basic accessibility knowledge is a requirement for our job because it’s our responsibility to ensure that content is accessible.”
That required updates to the district’s page content like adding alternative text, reorganizing content into more accessible structures, and limiting the number of PDF files. This approach allowed Olson to make immediate improvements and raise awareness about the importance of accessibility throughout the district.
“Finalsite provided us with accessible websites from the start, and their platform makes it possible.”
Creating an Accessible Website Experience
Creating an accessible website doesn’t have to be overwhelming, difficult, or confusing, Olson shared. With the help of Finalsite and AudioEye, an industry-leading accessibility technology, Glenbrook was able to create a welcoming website that everyone can use. Finalsite's integration with Audioeye makes large strides in equal access and compliance with laws enforced by the Office of Civil Rights.
AudioEye monitors and tests for hundreds of accessibility issues, and with just a click, the program can enhance the browsing experience for any user with impairments by adjusting font size, contrast levels, colors, and more.
Olson also knows the importance of Alternative text, which ensures that individuals with visual impairments can understand the content of images displayed on the site. A good rule of thumb Olson shared is “if you’re looking at an image, and you close your eyes, the alt text should describe what you’re seeing.”
Olson added that maintaining a proper heading structure throughout the website is vital. This not only aids in navigation for screen reader users but also enhances the overall organization and readability of the content — it can also boost the site’s search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, features a number of accessibility tools that make managing accessible content even easier, like support for adding Alternative (Alt) text and video caption files, a built-in accessibility checker that flags potential issues, and even the ability to search for and remove photos with missing Alt text.
This easily allows users to ensure their content is accessible and make quick updates, like assigning a heading structure to an element title. “This makes it much easier to make sure you're defining heading structure,” Olson added. “It’s also a huge time saver.”
Furthermore, opting for alternatives to PDFs helps prevent accessibility barriers since PDF files are a challenge for some assistive technologies, like screen readers. A great alternative, Olsen shared, is to convert the documents and information into on-page content, like converting a PDF of a lunch menu into a calendar using the template Finalsite provides.
Glenbrook’s initiative not only minimized potential complaints but also ensured compliance with essential regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). It’s also successfully paved the way for an engaging website that serves all of its community.
“Finalsite provided us with accessible websites from the start,” Olson added, “and their platform makes it possible.”
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