Accessibility has long been a concern for K-12 schools.
Educational organizations have always had to consider how to provide equal access to all students, ranging from private testing for those who need it to having school transportation that accommodates wheelchairs.
School website accessibility and ADA compliance is sometimes forgotten about by educational organizations, but it’s just as essential as physical access. In fact, it’s more important than ever before. As schools move enrollment and learning beyond the walls of the school, your website should be accessible to anyone who needs it.
Many schools work hard to implement the required guidelines for their online presence, but web accessibility is complex. There are extensive requirements involved that often results in certain specifications getting overlooked. When this happens, it limits access to some students, staff, or teachers, and potentially opening you up to ADA lawsuits.
ADA compliance may be an issue for your school site without you even realizing it. In this post, we take a look at what you need to know about ADA compliance and online accessibility, and how to assess what steps you need to take moving forward.
How Does the ADA Impact K-12 School Websites?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that organizations provide equal access to everyone, regardless of disabilities.
ADA compliance includes school websites, which are an increasingly valuable resource for students, parents, and teachers. School sites are now more important than ever, with more schools adjusting to online learning in the face of COVID-19.
If a student is unable to watch instructional videos because there aren’t closed captions and they’re hard of hearing, for example, they’re at an extreme disadvantage.
This would also be the case for students with limited sight who can’t utilize infographic resources without alternative image text, or those who can only use a keyboard on a site that requires a mouse to navigate.
All schools must maintain full ADA compliance online. That includes:
- the school website;
- mobile apps used by the school;
- any additional online tools a school uses, like published school menus.
This may require an overhaul on existing sites in order to incorporate the ADA guidelines into the site’s core foundation.
How to Determine if Accessibility is an Issue for Your School Website
If your school site wasn’t created with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in mind, there’s a good chance that there are at least portions of your content or site structure that needs updating.
Review the WCAG guidelines, and conduct a full audit on your site. You can have your internal IT staff handle this, or consult an expert in the industry.
Make sure there is full implementation of every guideline on every relevant piece of content. It’s not enough to have transcripts or closed captions for most videos; you must offer these for every video published on your site.
Remember that the technical parts of accessibility like site structure and navigation options are just as important as more visible measures like closed captions in videos.
It’s also important to have your site fully ADA compliant even if there’s no one in your community that you know of who needs every single requirement.
Common ADA Compliance Accessibility Issues Commonly Affecting School Websites
When assessing your site for ADA compliance, you should abide by every requirement that ensures accessibility.
These guidelines are extensive, but there are some ADA compliance violations that are more common. These are the accessibility issues that are most likely to impact users significantly:
- Transcripts or closed captions must be available for all audio and video files.
- All non-text content (including images, videos, and audio files) must have alternative text for screen readers.
- Captions must accompany all live video streaming.
- Your site structure must be easy to navigate with only a keyboard.
- Instructions cannot rely exclusively on sensory characteristics like shape, color, or sound.
- You must have a minimum color contrast ratio of 4.5:1, ensuring that your site is easy to distinguish.
- Your site must have text that can increase in size up to 200%.
- Headings and labels should be structural, not just decorative.
- Content (including videos) can’t flash more than three times in one second, and users must have the ability to turn off flashing content.
Make Your School Website Inclusive with ADA Compliance
Maintaining school website ADA compliance is no easy task. The guidelines can often be overwhelming, especially since you need to maintain these requirements across your entire online presence.
If you’re unsure about your school site’s accessibility, do a full audit as soon as possible.
If, on the other hand, you know that your site is lacking in multiple accessibility issues, it may be best to start from scratch. Services like LINQ rebuild your site from scratch or offer ready-made, easy-to-customize school websites that come fully ADA compliant.
You want every member of your community to take advantage of your site, so invest the time and energy to ensuring that this is possible.