Websites continue to get more advanced, with new features, integrations, and requirements being added almost daily. Many of these changes are good because they improve accessibility and ensure a better experience for all web users.
If you’re responsible for developing and maintaining a school website, then you know exactly how difficult it is to stay on top of trends and best practices, including American Disability Act (ADA) compliance.
You’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that 98% of all active websites are not ADA compliant.
In this article we’ll explain what website ADA compliance is, why it matters so much for schools, and the next steps you can take to evaluate your school’s website.
What is ADA Website Compliance?
ADA website compliance describes a precise set of rules, called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), that dictate the minimum standards for websites to be considered compliant. Though these guidelines were developed by an independent body called the World Wide Web Consortium, they are used by the ADA as a baseline standard for accessibility.
In general, these compliance standards are designed and intended to help those who can’t use poorly-designed websites due to visual and auditory impairments. Website visitors with these impairments will use technological aids like screen readers to help navigate sites and digest the content. When websites are improperly formatted, technological aids won’t work properly or at all.
What are the Current ADA Guidelines?
The WCAG (now referred to as WCAG 2.1) have evolved over several years, and now cover areas like:
- Non-standard use of colors.
- Text formatting.
- Closed-captioning on video.
- Audio control.
- Alternative options for interactive features.
- Searchability and structure.
- Navigational difficulties.
The examples above are only high-level categories. The WCAG 2.1 go into deep levels of detail when outlining specific compliance measures.
You can read both an overview of the WCAG 2.1 standards and specific compliance measures on the official website.
Do School Websites Need to be ADA Compliant?
Yes! Websites should be accessible and usable by all visitors.
“Schools have a responsibility to support and serve every student and staff member, regardless of their abilities.”
Although some private industries are relatively lax in their adoption of website ADA compliance standards (risking a potential fine and lost business), schools simply can’t ignore these requirements.
School website requirements to meet ADA standards are very clear, and schools are absolutely expected to be compliant with current accessibility standards per Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communication Act. Using WCAG 2.1 is the best way to ensure that your school’s website is fully compliant with all applicable regulations.
Failure to adopt website ADA compliance measures can have negative financial and reputational consequences for educational organizations. For example:
- Any institution that doesn’t meet ADA website compliance is liable for damages and can be subject to a lawsuit and/or fine based on real or perceived harm caused to an individual. The financial consequences of noncompliance vary widely, but lawsuits continue to rise, increasing by 12% last year alone.
- Students, staff members, and/or individuals in the community may be denied access to helpful and important information or website functionality, depending on their abilities. This failure produces a lack of equal opportunity and access for all.
Getting Your School’s Website ADA Compliant
If this is your first time researching website ADA compliance, or if it’s been a longstanding to-do item on your list of technology upgrades, don’t worry – you can get compliant.
Here is a step-by-step process for understanding the scope of potential noncompliance and a simple checklist to help address outstanding issues.
- Add website ADA compliance as a top priority for the school technology management plan. This project will need a clearly defined scope, budget, and internal leader.
- Decide what level of compliance will be achieved (the WCAG 1 divides compliance into 3 categories, depending on how well your website conforms to their standards).
- Create an accessibility compliance statement/policy that will help guide internal efforts and can be used externally (e.g., on the website, emails, and other school platforms).
- Conduct an audit using the complete WCAG 2.01 as a baseline, or hire an outside firm with experience in school website compliance. We regularly help clients here and would be happy to work with you to find the most cost-efficient, quality way to do so!
- Build a project plan for addressing identified issues that includes at least the following:
- Whether all updates and changes will be handled internally (and who is responsible).
- Realistic timeline for implementing changes.
- The addition of a clear and easily located method that visitors can use to report accessibility issues.
- Determine the internal cadence for monitoring continued compliance, keeping content compliant, training, and reporting on related projects.
>Here’s an Easier Option: Let Us Help
Learning, implementing, and monitoring website ADA compliance can be time consuming – especially if you’re new to this topic.
For over 20 years we’ve helped schools get the most from their technology and ensure total compliance with ADA regulations for websites and mobile apps. We bring depth of expertise and a suite of tools that empower your school’s technology with industry-leading designs, exceptional usability, custom branding, communication platforms, and much more. Plus, our content management system has ADA compliance built into its core features to keep you from unknowingly adding non-compliant content, pages, or features to school web properties.
We offer ADA compliance services and a proven process for thoroughly auditing your existing website, training staff, and ensuring the entire website meets WCAG 2.0 AA standards. If your school has an existing complaint about accessibility or you’ve been cited by a government agency, get up to speed quickly by reading our article on the best steps to take right now.