Family engagement in schools is a constant struggle. What can schools do to engage their families? What motivates families to engage and stay engaged?
Four ways to make your school website more accessible to senior caregivers
School website accessibility is growing in importance for the grandparents as primary caregivers. Here are four ways to include this demographic in your school messaging.
Everyone struggles with technology. There are one-sided conversations with Alexa, and when Apple removed their Home button, it was a forced adjustment in cell phone work flow for all Apple users. Seniors also struggle with technology because they are least familiar with it. Because of COVID, seniors have become more tech savvy than they may have in the past by using tools like FaceTime and Zoom to stay in contact with loved ones.
According to the CDC, more than 140,000 children in the U.S. have lost primary or secondary caregivers from COVID1. And then there’s the continued opioid crisis affecting more than 2 million children in the U.S2. The number of seniors as primary caregivers to school aged children is growing. This means a new audience that we want to engage with information from school. It also means that that information needs to be accessible to them. When a school has a population speaking another language at home, they would want the website to translate in that language, or even have a quick access translate button. Along those same lines, we need school information available to families who are more elderly.
Below are four ways to make your school website more accessible to seniors. These are recommended by the Website Accessibility Initiative.
Correctly coding your website for accessibility will allow seniors to make the font larger or smaller if needed. Imagine they are viewing the website on a mobile device, does it look the same as on a desktop? Are the buttons and drop down menus easy to click on or are they too small? Also, having the correct color contrast in fonts is important for everything to be visible. Some schools like to have a dropdown menu of their school colors. The background of the menu is one school color, and the menu items are another. Make sure these go together for full visibility.
Grandparents as primary caregivers need to be able to physically navigate through the website. Sometimes using a mouse or trackpad is difficult if they have arthritis. Your school website needs to have the functionality to tab through the menu items. Keep in mind if someone is tabbing through all of your menu items to not have really lengthy drop-downs—think of all the tabbing needed to get to the right information! Creating quick links for important items such as enrollment, fundraising, forms, etc., is not only helpful to the grandparents but all your families.
How do you make your site more accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing? For every video you upload to your school website, such as those weekly principal or superintendent messages, use closed captions on your video. If your software also includes a transcript to read, even better. The transcript will also allow the user to translate it in their native language if necessary.
Grandparents as guardians also struggle with cognitive issues. This is so important to consider with website design. These issues could range from being easily distracted, to having memory issues, or being confused once on the website. To accommodate this growing demographic, your school website needs to feature a simple, clean design, with a clear path on which visitors need to go where. For example, buttons for Elementary School, Middle School, High School. Or, a menu item at the top labeled “guardians/parents.” That way they know who they are, and where they need to go. A search bar is helpful for users to type in what they are looking for such as “staff directory,” if they are having trouble finding it. Seniors as caregivers also like a clear place with a phone number of where they can go for help and questions.
When talking about family engagement ideas for your school, website accessibility doesn’t often come up. However, it should—because in order for families to engage (all types of families), the information has to be accessible. Your school website should meet your community where they are. Let’s strive to make the experience simple, easy, and intuitive for these guardians starting their new role.