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School Districts and Web Accessibility: Where to Start

Dec 6, 2017

A commitment to providing an excellent education requires a commitment to website accessibility. With more learning occurring online and relying on new technologies, digital accessibility is imperative in order to provide the greatest number of people with the most opportunities.

Without experience implementing web accessibility, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Even if you think that you’ve taken steps to become more accessible, you might have overlooked some of the difficulties that people with vision, hearing, motor, or learning disabilities might encounter when navigating and using your website. The good news is that you can take steps today to make your website more accessible to users and protect yourself from lengthy and complicated litigation.

OCR Lawsuits are Preventable

In recent years, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has sharply increased the number of letters it sends to school districts and academic institutions across the country. During fiscal year 2016, OCR received 593 complaints about technology accessibility issues — a massive jump from just 25 technology accessibility complaints in fiscal year 2015.

You should take this increased number of complaints as a sign that the OCR is increasingly committed to enforcing the requirements of website accessibility for educational institutions, as implied by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Although it should be taken very seriously, it’s important to emphasize that receiving a letter of complaint from the OCR doesn’t mean that your organization is the target of a lawsuit.

Instead of viewing the letter as a threat, think of it as an opportunity for you to begin prioritizing accessibility for your school’s website. If you’re determined to work with the OCR to improve your website accessibility issues, there should be little reason for alarm. After carefully considering the content of the complaint, you should notify the appropriate people, respond promptly to the OCR’s letter, and implement a plan to resolve the issues as soon as possible.

How We Can Help

To determine whether your website is truly compliant with accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), you’ll need to go through a manual audit. For example, the WCAG requirement that your text is “readable and understandable” can only be assessed by humans.

Even though you need manual evaluators for a complete audit, you can still learn a great deal about your website’s potential accessibility issues just with automated tools. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s free and confidential automated tool scans your website and provides a clear, comprehensible report about your compliance with the WCAG 2.0 AA standards.

Our free automated assessment is an excellent starting point for your institution to get a handle on your web accessibility needs and objectives. Upon providing your website’s address, you’ll receive a report grading your site’s compliance with the four principles of the WCAG standards: Is your content perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust?

If you would prefer to speak with our team directly, please feel free to email us or call us at 401-830-0075, we would love to hear from you!

Additional Resources You May Be Interested In:

Are You At Risk? Take Our Web Accessibility Quiz

Download Our Website Accessibility Checklist

Get A Free Automated WCAG 2.0 Scan Of Your Website

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

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