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California Schools: Know Your State's Website Accessibility Requirements

Is your school's website ADA compliant?

Beginning July 1, 2019, California law requires state agencies and entities to post a certificate of accessibility on the home page of their websites. California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 434 into law on October 14, 2017. 

If you haven’t already heard about this new law, you definitely need to keep reading since you may already be behind. The required certification confirms your website complies with specified accessibility standards, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The California Department of Technology provides this certification form to download, complete, and post on your website. In addition to posting this certification by July 1, 2019, a new certification must be obtained every two years. 

Although laws will often begin a process, accessibility is not about the law. Accessibility is about individuals. It’s about giving everyone equal opportunity. 

Accessibility is not a new topic. We use accessibility every day without even realizing it. Many of us look at accessibility features as conveniences. Consider these scenarios:

You walk up to a building with your hands full, and no one is around to open the door for you. Then you notice there is a button to press that will automatically open it for you. Isn’t it convenient? 

You need to complete forms to register for school and participate in various school functions. First, you have to print the form. Of course, this means buying more ink because your printer is always out of ink. You then manually complete the form and send it to school with your student (which means it may or may not make it to the right place). Isn’t it nice when you can just fill out the forms online and press the submit button?

While these are just two simple examples of conveniences for many, it is a necessity for many others. We often do not realize the accessibility features at our fingertips. Can you imagine not having access to the Internet? California’s new law is another step to ensuring no one is without access to everything on the web.

What steps do I take to provide access to everyone and remain ADA compliant with this new California law?

Now that you understand it is important to provide an accessible school website, let’s talk about what it takes to provide this day in and day out. The steps below will help you meet your accessibility goals. If your website is already accessible and compliant with accessibility standards, you are ready to certify your website and can skip step one below. Of course, if you are already a School Webmasters client, we have already confirmed you have an ADA compliant website, and you can begin at step two. 

Here’s a quick outline of the initial steps you must take:

  1. Perform needed website remediation to make sure yours complies with accessibility standards.
    If accessibility guidelines are like a foreign language to you, this may seem overwhelming, but whoever manages your school website must be trained in accessibility. If this is not already the case, you have quite a bit of catching up to do and don’t have any more time to lose. Call us today.

    We strongly encourage you to start this step right away. If you are going to tackle this on your own, great! Don’t waste another minute. Or, you can take the easiest and most inexpensive route and have us do it all for you. Since we’re way ahead of the game, we can do it for less than the cost of training your own staff. Let them do what they do best—educate our country. And call School Webmasters to do what we do best for you. Don’t wait until June 2019 only to discover you need a complete website renovation; that would make it very difficult and most likely impossible to meet the July 2019 deadline. 
  2. Perform both automated and manual human testing to certify compliance. 
    We wish we could say automated testing is enough. Unfortunately, that is far from the truth. Our Automated vs. Manual Accessibility Testing article explains why you must use both forms of testing to ensure accessibility. Manual testing is vital. 

    When you are ready to begin manual testing and are qualified to certify each accessibility standard, we recommend keeping the standards in front of you as a reference to ensure you do not miss anything. As an accessibility auditor, you also must know how to use assistive technology, such as a screen reader. If knowledge of accessibility standards and the ability to use assistive technology is not something you already have, contact us and we will provide you with the accessibility audit you need. (We can usually provide this service to our website management clients for free.) 

    Oh, and be sure not to skip the documents attached to the website. They must be reviewed for accessibility also. 
  3. Once you certify your website is accessible and compliant, you are ready to add a certification on your Homepage.
    Again, if we already manage your website, this is something we can do for you. We will place a certification seal on your website and link it to your Website Accessibility Certification form. 
  4. Ensure your website stays accessible.
    Now that you’ve worked late nights and long weekends to provide an accessible website, we know you want to keep it that way. Rendering your new website inaccessible with the very first update would be traumatic! Our accessibility trained designers, developers, and updaters take accessibility seriously. We maintain the websites we manage in a way that allows everyone access to all information all the time so we can provide continuous compliance. We can do it for you if you’d like. 
  5. Update your accessibility certification every two years.
    The law states that you must recertify your website for compliance every two years. However, we strongly recommend you keep your website accessible at all times. We feel this is the intention of the law. Doing this ensures every teacher, parent, student, and community member is able to access all the information you provide, all the time. Of course, you will also have peace of mind knowing you are in full compliance with the law.

If you have read this far and still have no idea what we are talking about, simply take the obvious route and contact us now. Let us explain how we can handle all of your accessibility needs. Here at School Webmasters, we take accessibility seriously. We know how important it is for everyone regardless of ability to have access to the important information on your website.

Not only do we offer accessible websites, we also provide a wide range of other website accessibility services. This includes document accessibility training (free for our website management clients), document remediation, accessibility audits, and consultation. Essentially, we have everything you need to establish and maintain accessibility.

*Please note that School Webmasters does not claim to offer this or any information as legal advice. We recommend contacting a licensed attorney for legal advice about this or any other accessibility-related topic.

Do-it-Yourself Website Accessibility Audit