Stop Hiring Developers Who Are Not Trained in ADA Accessibility Standards

If your developer doesn't know accessibility, you may be at risk.

stop hiring developers who aren't trained in accessibility

Is this a plug to only hire School Webmasters for all your website and document accessibility needs? Yes, it is. But it’s more than that. It may even be a bit of a rant. We care too much about our clients and the world of digital accessibility to keep quiet about how we really feel. We would love to see today’s digital world be 100% accessible to all users. Unfortunately, however, as long as schools continue to use developers who are not trained in accessibility standards and techniques, it will never happen.

Normally, this is where we would toot our own horn and tell you why we are the best option for school website development, provide raving testimonials from our clients who love our work, and show you end results for any website you can dream up. However, we want to take a break from tradition and tell you why you shouldn’t hire someone else, especially someone who does not integrate accessibility into their development process. Yes, this means your friend who is a WordPress wiz or your IT guy who says you don’t have to know code and they can just create your website for free using Wix or Squarespace—because they do that all the time just for fun. Remember the warning:

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The only exception to this rule is when our clients realize we aren’t too good to be true, and we really do everything we say we do for unbeatable prices. Oops! We said there wouldn’t be any tooting horns today. So let us tell you what makes us cringe about other developers. Imagine this scenario:

You need a school website accessibility audit because you received a letter from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights demanding you provide an accessible website. Or perhaps you know the law and want to be sure you never receive a demand letter for not complying with Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. So, you contact School Webmasters and are excited you found a company that can give you a beautiful, accessible website for the best price. But in the meantime, to meet the looming OCR deadline, you hire someone to redevelop your current school’s website so the audit results are clean and free of barriers.

Sounds like a perfect plan, right? Wrong! We work with this same scenario too often, and it needs to stop. Don’t just assume your website developer is an accessibility expert. The first step to an accessible school website is implementing accessibility during development. It involves everyone on the development team including:

  • project managers,
  • copywriters,
  • graphic designers,
  • UI designers,
  • software engineers, and
  • all other front and back end developers.

Basically, it is vital that anyone who touches your school’s website be trained to keep your website accessible with every update to the website, no matter how simple or complex. Otherwise, your brand new, beautiful website that you spent precious time and money to create (including the unadvised slideshow), will end up with remediation costs of two or even three times more to actually bring it to an accessible state. Our heart breaks for our clients when we see this happen. But with School Webmasters, there’s no need to worry that creating a new website will take too long to meet your OCR deadline. We’ll have your new, accessible website up and running faster and for less money than it will take to remediate your old one. We know what it takes to meet your school’s pending deadlines.

The Steps to Website Accessibility Success

steps for website accessibility success
Successful happy group of people learning software engineering and business during presentation

Instead of making the same mistakes we see schools make too often, follow these steps to school website accessibility success:

  • Be proactive and make your website accessible before you have to waste time and money on an accessibility lawsuit.
  • Either hire School Webmasters or find a development team trained in accessibility. (See tips below on what to look for.)
  • Hire someone to remediate the documents linked from your website. (Yes, we do this too!)
  • Work with designers and developers to create a new accessible website, or if possible, remediate your current website. (If you hire us, skip to step 10.)
  • Review audit and make necessary remediations.
  • Have your auditor confirm remediations are correct.
  • Post an accessibility statement letting everyone know your website is accessible and compliant with federal accessibility guidelines.
  • Ensure every update is completed accessibly.
  • Breathe a sigh of relief.

Hopefully, you have already decided to skip steps five through nine. In this case, contact us to get started right away with your accessible school website design! Otherwise, keep reading for more tips to help your school along the way.

What to look for in a development team

In addition to someone who is going to provide a visually appealing, user-friendly website with all the bells and whistles you desire, your designers and developers must care about things like semantic HTML, color contrast, WAI-ARIA, keyboard accessibility, etc. Consider asking the following questions to potential developers:

  • Do you use semantic HTML?
  • How do you test color for contrast?
  • Do you use WAI-ARIA?
  • Are all functions of the websites you create keyboard accessible?
  • Do all images include alternative text?
  • Will users be able to increase the text size up to 200% without increasing the size of graphics?
  • What do you do if we find an accessibility barrier?

Be sure your developer is willing to work with you to remediate any accessibility barriers you find after your website is complete. Not only will this help you get things up to par when a barrier is found, but it will also encourage accessibility during development, removing the need for remediation altogether. After all, your staff’s time is precious and should focus on teaching new skills instead of correcting old glitches.

My website looks great, but my documents failed my audit

Are your documents also accessible

Remember, all of the information you provide on your website about your school and the services you offer must be accessible. This includes the documents you link to such as school handbooks, lunch menus, board minutes, and calendars. Whether you are just getting started on your new website, are in the middle of website development, or your website is live, it’s never too soon to start remediating your documents. Learn more about school document accessibility and how we can make your document remediation efforts painless.

Keep your school’s accessible website barrier-free

Now that you know what to do and more importantly, what not to do as you design and develop an accessible school website, you’ll want to be sure it stays that way. One website update can create accessibility barriers and throw your website out of compliance.

As mentioned above, in addition to only using developers trained in ADA compliance and accessibility, the front-end developers you use to update your school’s website each day need to keep it accessible. This is why when we develop a website, it’s taboo for anyone except our accessibility-trained teams to ever touch your website. Our teams know accessibility. If we receive a request to add something that is not accessible, we show you better options so everyone can access all your information all the time.

We tried to get through a whole article without tooting our own horn. However, when you are really that good at what you do, it’s impossible. We are the school website masters. Contact us today to find out how we can accomplish accessibility together.