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Back to School: Why Web Accessibility is Important for Education

Sep 6, 2018

As an integral part of a fair and appropriate public education, web accessibility helps students of all ages and abilities to be able to:

  • access online course content
  • understand video lectures
  • take quizzes and tests
  • use class resources appropriately

The goal of web accessibility is to ensure that all people, including those with disabilities, have equal use and enjoyment of websites and web content. The internet’s importance in our daily lives continues to grow, impacting everything from light entertainment to serious educational initiatives. This means that providing equal educational opportunities to all students requires a strong commitment to web accessibility.

As parents, children, and educators all prepare for the start of another school year, it’s the perfect time to examine the reasons why making websites accessible is so important for education.

Web Accessibility for Students and Parents

An estimated 6.7 million students in the United States — 13 percent of all public school students — receive special education services. Students with vision, hearing, motor, and cognitive disabilities may all experience unique challenges when using a computer and accessing the internet.

Web accessibility also benefits parents with disabilities who want to be engaged in their children’s education. They may use the internet to view grades, download class resources, find teachers’ and administrators’ contact information, and more.

In particular, web accessibility is important for goals such as career and technical education, which seeks to fill gaps in the job market for in-demand professions such as nursing and IT. Ensuring that all students can access online course content, for example, allows them to understand video lectures, take quizzes and tests, and use class resources appropriately.

Web Accessibility for Schools and Universities

Unfortunately, not all schools and universities are aware of the importance of web accessibility. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility used its automated website scanning tool to analyze the websites of ten of the largest school districts in the United States. All of their websites experienced major accessibility issues, from the inability to resize text to navigation problems when using the keyboard.

As a result of these problems, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has received hundreds of complaints about technology accessibility issues in school districts and academic institutions. These letters of complaint allege that the organizations’ websites are insufficiently accessible for real users with disabilities.

In order to lower your own organization’s risk of receiving an OCR letter of complaint, you need to adopt a set of web accessibility standards and put these rules into practice. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the most well-known and established set of web accessibility recommendations.

To help school districts with accessibility, the Bureau of Internet Accessibility has devoted $100,000 to detailed website scans and consultations. Qualified educational institutions can receive assistance at no charge so that all students, parents, and educators with disabilities can fully participate in the learning community.

Final Thoughts

Education and web accessibility go hand in hand — you cannot provide a proper education to all students without guaranteeing that all students can make full use of appropriate websites and web content.

The Bureau of Internet Accessibility blog has all the latest news and updates on web accessibility. To learn if your own school district qualifies for a free consultation about your website, contact us today.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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