Automated accessibility testing performed by the Bureau of Internet Accessibility's a11y® analysis platform shows that the websites of some of the largest public high schools in New York have considerable accessibility barriers. Collectively, nearly two-thirds (65.29%) of the checkpoints tested failed, compared to half (49.71%) of the checkpoints tested on the nation's top elementary schools.
Fifteen of New York's largest public high schools had a sampling of their web pages scanned. Such a high checkpoint failure rate suggests that many students and their families with disabilities would have difficulty accessing public information, such as distance learning resources, school policies, and important updates during the COVID-19 crisis, when the information is perhaps more important than ever.
Only one of the schools tested had an overall failure rate below half (48.28%). The school with the worst report failed 86.21% of the checkpoints tested, more than 20 percentage points higher than the elementary school with the worst report.
The structure and methodology of the evaluation is the same as the evaluation performed on the nation's top elementary schools, organized around the four Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 principles. The principles, which are further broken into individual success criteria or checkpoints, require digital content to be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR).
Just as with the elementary schools, the checkpoints in the Robust category failed at the highest rate, with a combined failure total of 96.67%.
By principle, the checkpoint failure rates were:
Some of the checkpoints tested showed instances of failure on every website. For example, WCAG 2.1 success criterion 1.1.1: Non-text Content, which requires a text alternative for all non-text content (like images), had errors detected on each website.
The same is true for 2.4.4 Link Purpose, which serves to ensure all users, regardless of assistive technology or method of access, can confidently determine the action a hyperlink will perform. Links like "click here," for example, are generic and can cause confusion, especially when there are many on a web page or site. It's important to note that this does not mean every link on every page tested failed this checkpoint; rather, at least one instance of failure was detected on each website. To improve hyperlink accessibility, it's recommended to make sure they are clear, readable, visually distinct, color contrast compliant, and keyboard accessible.
Only three of the 15 schools had easily-found, complete accessibility statements linked to from their home page. An additional three websites had brief statements of their intention to work toward accessibility compliance, accompanied by instructions for requesting assistance: one points users to the universal Contact page, one provides an email address for a contact, and one provides a phone number.
Three of the 15 websites featured immediately-apparent accessibility add-ons or overlays, which tend to work sometimes for some users and not for others. Their inconsistency and potential interference with the assistive technology somebody already uses can present additional, unintended issues. For example, one of the websites featured a high-contrast setting that can be turned on and off. Unfortunately, the switch in this example adjusted the contrast for only a portion of the website's content. As expected, images and images of text were largely unaffected by toggling the switch on or off, but even some HTML text did not display any noticeable changes in contrast. We continue to advise that organizations use caution with automated tools that promise 100% accessibility compliance.
Access to important information is always critical. During this time of unexpected remote learning and an even higher reliance on digital communication platforms, we want to help schools comply with accessibility standards and quickly learn how to make vast accessibility improvements. To that end, we're offering education institutions a full ErrorCastTM report for $42, only five percent of the normal cost. We hope our in-depth and actionable remediation suggestions provide the guidance some institutions need to get on the path to accessibility. This offer is for education institutions only and is available through June 1. Schools, get ErrorCast here.