February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month®, which makes it the perfect time to talk about how important it is for CTE organizations to emphasize web accessibility.
CTE spans a wide range of career fields that are highly paid and in-demand, including nursing, construction, information technology, energy, and more. Despite millions of job openings in these domains — cybersecurity alone had more than 350,000 open positions in 2017 — far too many of these roles remain unfilled. With this gap between open positions and hires in mind, CTE Month seeks to raise public awareness of opportunities in these fields, using everything from media outreach to collaborations with industry leaders.
Persistent job vacancies mean that CTE organizations simply can’t afford to overlook web accessibility when building their websites. These institutions will play a vital role in making the web more accessible to people with vision, hearing, motor, and learning disabilities. In doing so, CTE organizations can improve the quality of life of people with disabilities, making it easier for them to unlock their potential and find employment.
CTE Accessibility Statements
An accessibility statement is a document that defines your organization’s level of commitment to creating an accessible website. It’s both an internal benchmark for your development team and an outward-facing page that offers assistance and information to those who are concerned about web accessibility.
Many CTE organizations have already added an accessibility statement to their website. The Texas CTE Resource Center and the Career & Technical Education site of Pendleton High School in Oregon are just two examples.
These pages, and indeed any good accessibility statement, do two things. First, they explain which guidelines the website is implementing to promote accessibility. The Pendleton High School site, for one, mentions that it uses Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which are by far the most widely used web accessibility standards.
Second, they include contact information for the website’s visitors to report an accessibility issue or file a formal complaint. If users find that content on the Texas CTE Resource Center’s website that is not accessible, the organization’s accessibility statement offers to connect them with an accessible alternative.
Web Accessibility and CTE Students
Web accessibility initiatives also have a profound impact on the daily lives of CTE students. If a course includes online video lectures, for example, web accessibility guidelines such as WCAG 2.0 mandate the inclusion of closed captions and transcripts. Without these vital alternatives, students with hearing disabilities will lack equal access to CTE education.
Another vital concern for web accessibility in CTE education is assistive technologies such as screen readers. Students with disabilities must be able to navigate online learning portals with class resources and quizzes, and files in different formats, such as PDFs, must be made accessible or provide accessible alternatives.
"As recipients of state and/or federal funds, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs are required to make their facilities accessible for use by disabled students” says Michael Connet of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), “In a CTE classroom this means that instructors need to be prepared to use multiple means of representation, to give diverse learners options for acquiring information and knowledge. Students should be provided multiple means of engagement, to tap into learners' interests, offer appropriate challenges, and increase motivation. Using assistive technologies, opens new learning opportunities for students as they build their technical skills. "
With all eyes on CTE this month, now is the perfect time to make your own website more accessible. If you’re interested in learning more, follow the Bureau of Internet Access blog for the latest news and information, and sign up for a free website audit.