Section 504 schools have a lot of regulations to follow. In recent years, school website accessibility has started to be mandated state by state. This is an easy thing to check off your school’s to-do list if you have the right information and resources.
Listed below are steps to make your school’s website more ADA compliant. It’s important to keep in mind, if everyone can access all the information schools are providing, you are creating digital equity and fostering an environment for all families to engage—and you are keeping compliant with Section 504 in schools.
What is website accessibility?
When something is accessible, it means it’s easy for all persons to retrieve or access it. It’s important that any business follow guidelines from the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA. The ADA “prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.”
For websites, it's the accepted standard to follow WCAG 2.1, or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, that give website creators a baseline as to how to make their content available to everyone. The WCAG can help you deliver content that is accessible and enjoyed by your whole community. From metadata to closed-captioning, Edlio offers a variety of techniques that you can use to make sure all parents and guardians can access important information on your school’s website.
How can I make my school website accessible?
Closed Captions & Transcripts
One of the simplest ways to make your school website ADA compliant is by adding closed captions to videos with audio as well as a transcript of the content discussed. While this may seem like a lengthy task, Artificial Intelligence (AI) now provides a variety of different tools to help automate this process. Those captions will save as a transcript. As an added bonus, this feature can also be incredibly helpful if you don’t have headphones or are in a crowded place where you can’t hear audio very well. Work with a website company that translates the captions.
Alternative text, or alt text for short, is a description of an image for those who can’t see it. Alt text allows for those with vision impairments to get a sense of what images are present on a website by using a screen reader that reads the alt text out loud.
This may sound familiar if you’ve ever encountered a website where a picture won’t load properly and all that appears is a small blurb at the bottom of the empty space where the image should be describing what the image would’ve looked like. Make sure alt text is required not just for images added to the website, but also to forms as well. Because it’s hard to make sure everyone updating your school website is actually following through with alt texting every photo, go with a school website company that has it as a required feature, or the option to make it required for users.
Another important accessibility feature that many people may take for granted is how a website is coded. A website that is coded with accessibility in mind is one that can easily be read by a screen reader. This is important for those who need to use an alternative device to access a website, such as a tablet or cell phone. When a site coded correctly all design aspects will come over to the mobile device, and the visitor will have a similar experience. Beware of companies that offer a “mobile friendly” version of their site which sometimes even means they are using a different URL and you may see something like this: schoolname/m
Skip to Main Content
More and more grandparents are stepping in as primary guardians 1. This sometimes means having to use a mouse can be very painful for arthritic hands. Another feature that can be useful for those who use a screen reader is the ability to skip to a website’s main content. This is a feature that lets visitors on screen readers use their keyboard to skip the navigation at the top of each page, making it easier for them to reach their desired information without having to tab through everything. It also allows visitors with visual impairments to avoid having to hear the entire menu every single time they load a new page which can make navigation much simpler.
Color Contrast Tools
Aesthetic design itself can also help assist those with disabilities. For those with light sensitivity or other vision impairments like color blindness, color contrasting tools can come in very handy. These help website designers make sure that colors contrast to the recommended standards that ensure important elements are prominent.
Accessibility Page Preview
Most website companies offer a page preview option when about to publish a page. This is where you see how it will actually look on your site. Does your page preview include an accessibility preview as well before publishing? This way you are aware of any accessibility errors before they are live.
WebAIM - A great resource including accessibility articles and trainings
From Compliance to Connection - A free ebook on accessibility
Website Accessibility 101 - A quick 15-minute webinar discussing the importance of accessibility
Taking all of these factors into consideration when creating your Section 504 school’s website can be a bit daunting. Fortunately, school websites that are powered by Edlio take all ADA compliance guidelines into consideration for you, thus taking one step closer to that digital equity we are striving towards.