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, you know exactly how difficult it is to stay on top of trends and best practices, including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.

You're not alone. In fact, an estimated 96% of all active websites are not ADA compliant as of 2023, according to a study by accessiBe.

Ensuring ADA compliance not only helps you avoid legal issues but also demonstrates your commitment to providing an inclusive and accessible experience for all students, staff, and community members.

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 an independent body called the World Wide Web Consortium developed these guidelines, the ADA uses them as a baseline standard for accessibility.

These compliance standards are designed to help individuals with visual and auditory impairments who may struggle to use poorly designed websites. Website visitors with these impairments will use technological aids like screen readers to help navigate sites and digest content. When websites are improperly formatted, technological aids won't work properly or at all, creating barriers for users with disabilities.

The WCAG provides a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that websites are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for all users, regardless of their abilities. By adhering to these guidelines, schools can create an inclusive online environment that promotes equal access to information and resources.

What are the Current ADA Guidelines?

The latest version of the guidelines is WCAG 2.2, which was published on October 5, 2023. WCAG 2.2 builds upon the previous versions (WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1) and includes additional success criteria to address accessibility barriers.

The WCAG 2.2 has 13 guidelines organized under four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. For each guideline, there are testable success criteria at three levels: A, AA, and AAA.

Some of the key areas covered by WCAG 2.2 include:

  1. Nonstandard use of colors

  2. Text formatting

  3. Closed captioning on video

  4. Audio control

  5. Alternative options for interactive features

  6. Searchability and structure

  7. Navigational difficulties

WCAG 2.2 is designed to be backwards compatible with WCAG 2.1 and WCAG 2.0, which means that content conforming to WCAG 2.2 also conforms to the earlier versions. This allows organizations to transition to the latest standards while maintaining compliance with the previous versions.

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 adopting website ADA compliance standards (risking potential fines and lost business), schools simply can't ignore these requirements. Educational institutions are required by law to provide equal access to all students, staff, and community members, including access to digital resources and information.

Noncompliance can also lead to a loss of federal funding and negative publicity, which can damage your school's reputation and hinder your ability to attract and retain students and staff.

School website requirements to meet ADA standards are clear, and schools are expected to comply with current accessibility standards per Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act. Using WCAG 2.2 is the best way to ensure that your school's website is fully compliant with all applicable regulations.

Failing 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 lawsuits and fines based on real or perceived harm caused to an individual. The financial consequences of noncompliance vary widely, but lawsuits continue to rise, increasing by 14% in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to a report by UsableNet.

  • Students, staff members, and 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, which can lead to feelings of exclusion and discrimination.

In addition to legal and ethical considerations, prioritizing website accessibility can benefit your school in other ways. An accessible website can improve user experience, increase engagement, and demonstrate your commitment to inclusivity and diversity.

Getting Your School’s Website ADA Compliant

If this is your first time researching school website accessibility 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:

  1. 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.

  2. Decide what level of compliance will be achieved (WCAG 2.2 divides compliance into three categories, depending on how well your website conforms to their standards).

  3. 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).

  4. Conduct an audit using the complete WCAG 2.2 as a baseline, or hire an outside firm with experience in school website compliance. We regularly help clients and would be happy to work with you to find the most cost-efficient, quality way to do so!

  5. 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)

    • A realistic timeline for implementing changes

    • The addition of a clear and easily located method that visitors can use to report accessibility issues

  6. Determine the internal cadence for monitoring continued compliance, keeping content compliant , training, and reporting on related projects.

Remember, achieving and maintaining ADA compliance is an ongoing process. As your website grows and changes, it's essential to continually assess and address accessibility issues to ensure that your site remains compliant and inclusive.

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 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. This means that you can focus on creating engaging content while our platform ensures that your website remains accessible and compliant.

We offer ADA compliance services and a proven process for thoroughly auditing your existing website, training staff, and ensuring the entire website meets WCAG 2.2 AA standards. Our team will work closely with you to understand your unique needs and develop a customized plan to achieve and maintain compliance.

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.

Contact Foxbright today to learn more about how we can help make your school website ADA compliant and provide an accessible, engaging experience for all users.

(This original article from 2022 was updated with new information for 2024)

Frequently Asked Questions About School Website ADA Compliance

As you work towards making your school website ADA compliant, you may have several questions. Here are some of the most common questions we receive from our clients:

If your school website is not ADA compliant, you may face lawsuits, fines, and reputational damage. It's essential to prioritize compliance to ensure equal access for all users and avoid legal consequences. Noncompliance can also lead to a loss of trust and credibility within your community, as it demonstrates a lack of commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.

It's recommended to conduct a full ADA compliance audit at least once a year and whenever significant changes are made to your website. Regular monitoring and maintenance can help ensure ongoing compliance. Additionally, it's good practice to train your staff on accessibility best practices and encourage them to keep accessibility in mind when creating and updating content.

While it's possible to make your school website ADA compliant on your own, it can be a time-consuming and complex process. Partnering with an experienced firm like Foxbright can help ensure compliance and save you time and resources. Our team of experts can guide you through the process, provide valuable insights, and help you create a website that is both accessible and engaging.

What Foxbright Clients Say

- Blissfield Community Schools "We have used Foxbright for almost 9 years now and have had a great working relationship with them. Responses are always quick and courteous."
- Blissfield Community Schools "We recently did a redesign of our website and we are so pleased with the new web interface. Their interface is easy to use and intuitive. Foxbright continues to keep up with the trends and over the past 9 years there have been many new features and functions."
- Byron Center Public Schools "We are very happy with this organization. They are great to work with! Sharp group of professionals and always helpful."
- Grand Ledge Public Schools "Foxbright's client service is second to none!"
- Grand Ledge Public Schools "For many people, a school district's website often provides the first impression... and those are very powerful and influential. I can not imagine using a different website technology provider – I think Foxbright is tops in so many ways!"
- Kent ISD “Foxbright is a technology company that knows how to communicate, rather than a communication company that dabbles in technology.”
- Muskegon Area ISD "We been very satisfied with the quality and flexibility of Foxbright's CMS. We continue to enjoy a positive and creative partnership with Foxbright and look forward to implementing new features."
- Saline Schools "When any issue comes up, the Foxbright support team is only an email or phone call away. They always respond very quickly to the issues which wasn't our experience with our last website vendor."
- Saline Schools "The PD yesterday was awesome! The hybrid you did for us was great. It was short, quick and covered the areas we wanted to in a short time. Thank you for being flexible and rolling with our PD style yesterday. Excited to be ADA compliant."
- Southfield Public Schools "It has been a joy and a pleasure to work with Foxbright because they are such a responsive company."
- Vicksburg Community Schools "Our Head of Technology and I both marveled at how thorough, seamless, simple, and cost-efficient the site transfer process was last Fall and at how easy it is to maintain and change the site to fit our needs. Thank you for all you do to help us look good!"
- Wayland Union Schools "Our experience in working with Foxbright to create the new website was wonderful from start to finish. We finished the project under schedule and our parents, staff and community are happy with the new site."