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What every school administrator should know about website accessibility

Find the joy in ADA website compliance

Think of website compliance as the HOA of the Internet. While you sort of hate having someone telling you what you can or cannot do at your own home, you appreciate the fact that you won’t have the Griswold’s cousin Eddie’s RV blocking your driveway all winter.

Let’s be honest. 

Schools are now required to implement yet another federal mandate that requires lots of school resources, without any compensation to implement these mandates. It feels overwhelming. It doesn’t seem fair. 

But, it doesn’t matter how it feels. It is the reality, and you better get with the program or face some harsh consequences (like a painful accessibility audit, hefty legal fees, mandated improvement plans, threatened loss of funding, and possible lawsuits).

So let’s look at how you can accomplish this Herculean feat, with as little pain as possible, have a much better website experience in the long run, and feel good about doing the right thing for all your school website visitors.

School Website Accessibility Benefits

  1. By conforming to best practices in web standards for coding and website management, you will enjoy:
    • faster load times and website functionality
    • search engine optimization (what benefits the disabled also benefits Google)
    • the ability to use new technologies as they are developed
    • the privilege to provide consistent expectations for your website users (both the disabled and the non-disabled)
  2. You can be confident that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights won’t be knocking at your door with the threat of withholding funds or filing a lawsuit.
  3. You can enjoy the feeling of knowing that you are doing the right thing and providing access to all website visitors, both the disabled and those who are not.

Getting Started

Step 1:

The first step is to evaluate the current state of your school’s ADA website compliance. You can begin by running a test on each page of your website. In addition to manual testing (which includes keyboard testing, screen reader testing, and user testing), one of the automated website accessibility checkers we use for testing is WebAIM’s WAVE report. It is free and quite robust. You will need to run each page of your website and make a note of issues that need to be addressed. This will tell you where most of your issues reside, and you will start there.

Step 2:

Start with the errors and begin to fix those issues first. This might include things such as adding alternative text and/or headers to your pages, addressing color contrast issues, or fixing whatever else is causing the most accessibility errors. Write down the steps involved to address that error; let anyone who can fix these issues know (like those on your staff who update the website, the website vendor or designer, or the developers); and tell them what needs to be fixed. Have them set a timeframe for completion. Be sure everyone involved gets the deadlines on their calendar, and be sure you follow up with them.

Step 3: 

Review any warnings and decide if those items need to be corrected. These will typically involve manually checking for things such as redundant links and document accessibility.

Step 4:

Once you have resolved all errors and warnings, test each page again to confirm everything is cleared.  

Step 5:

Add an accessibility page to your website, where site visitors can request assistance if they are unable to access information on your website. In our opinion, the best place for the link to your page is in the footer area of your site so that it shows up on every page of your website. Your accessibility page should include a form to complete that lets the user describe what information they need help with and where it is on the site. In addition to a form that can be completed using only a keyboard, be sure you also provide a contact phone number. 

Step 6:

Provide website accessibility training to everyone who provides content or makes website updates. This will not only include knowing how your website software works (how to add alt text to your specific software programs, or how to add H tags or table headers, descriptive text links, semantic structure, video captioning, etc.) but how documents that are attached or linked to from the website should be created to be compliant. This means that anyone who creates a document that you post on your website must also know how to make those documents, such as Word documents, PDFs, and other formats, accessible.

Step 7:

Create a process where your websites are periodically reviewed to assure they remain compliant. This includes site reviews, both manually and using software testing, and ongoing training for your staff and anyone who creates content for your websites.

Now, for the painless strategy…

If you are one of the schools struggling with how to implement all of this, we have a simple solution. And, happily for you, it is an affordable solution. Unlike the typical website provider who provides a software solution (content management system), which requires your staff do all the heavy lifting, we can provide this service instead. Here’s how we do it:

  1. We consult with you about best practices for website layout, content, copywriting, etc.
  2. We then create a sitemap, based on your needs, and proceed to write the copy for your sites.
  3. We design ADA compliant, responsive (mobile friendly) websites assuring proper navigation, color contrast, alt text, and the myriad of other requirements of website accessibility.
  4. We manage all of your ongoing updates daily, so you don’t have to train any of your staff about website accessibility, software usage, etc. They simply send us news, additions, information, etc., through a convenient customer service portal. We take care of making sure it gets on the website in the most intuitive, accessible, and logical manner (and probably more quickly than your own staff has time to complete it).
  5. We annually review your website for accessibility, along with our other ongoing quality control measures.

All of this is included with our services. There are only two areas in which your staff needs training (and we even provide them with the online training for free). Your staff is responsible only for creating compliant document attachments and adding closed captioning to your videos. Or, if you’d rather have us do that as well, we can provide it for an additional fee. 

But, if you must manage all of this in-house, be sure to check out our Website Accessibility Tips page and the many resources available there. To understand the rationale and value of website accessibility and how it pertains to schools, visit Is Your School’s Website ADA Compliant?

So, rather than tell the OCR how you really feel about needing to get your school website compliant, give Jim a call at 888.750.4556. 

Take a tip from Clark Griswold, and know that you too can find the joy in having an ADA compliant website. In addition to meeting the rigorous demands of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, you will get a responsive (mobile friendly) website, the best school website design around, and your sites will stay compliant year in and year out.

Bonus Offer: If your school is either going through an audit, has been audited, or just wants to get into compliance before you do get an audit, School Webmasters offers online staff training to help you meet OCR standards. We offer written and video training covering topics like “understanding website accessibility” as well as training for creating accessibly compliant documents in Word, Excel, Google, InDesign, PDF, and video captioning. We also provide handy checklists that your staff members can download and reference as they create new documents. A school designated administrator can also login and track the training that his or her school’s staff has completed in order to comply with many OCR corrective action plans. 

We offer this service free of charge to all School Webmasters clients, but schools using other vendors are welcome to access this training as well for $249 per year per district (and the training can be utilized by as many people within your district as you need). To sign-up for access, complete the ADA Training Access form

Also, if you need an auditor for website accessibility, we can provide that service to you as well. E-mail Kelly@SchoolWebmasters.com for an accessibility audit quote.