The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was constructed with the aim of allowing everyone with a disability to live a life of freedom and equality. The ADA is far reaching and extends to use of transport, accommodation, employment, and online resources such as websites. ADA compliant school websites have been a hot topic of conversation lately with some high profile cases of litigation against schools who have failed to comply. In fact it is reported that The US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened approximately 350 nationwide investigations in 2016 to determine their websites compliance with the ADA. Understandably, many schools are now hurriedly reviewing their own websites to avoid costly defenses against litigation and are very often seeking consultancy from organizations such as Wedgie Media.
Impact of the ADA on Schools
The impact of the ADA is that schools are legally bound to design websites that allow those with disabilities to access them; these are accessibility requirements. The primary reason that this is a complex issue is that there are a range of disabilities which must be responded to accordingly. There is an extensive checklist on the government website which can seem daunting at first. To start it is more effective to consider the high level requirements to get a sense of what is expect. These are just a few points:
- All images, video files, and audio files etc must have an alt tag describing the purpose of the object
- There should be audio descriptions for blind users, and text transcripts for deaf users
- There should be no repeatedly flashing images or strobe effects
- The page should be compatible with assistive technologies
Is your school website ADA compliant? If not, Wedgie Media can help get you there.
Plan How To Get Your ADA Compliant School Website
There are many other things to consider which is why schools often hire an expert consultant to assist them. The first step is for the current site to be audited against the ADA requirements. Once the gaps are understood, either the current site should be modified or it may be decided that a new site needs to be created. An action plan should be designed which has a timeline to get a site live which complies with ADA requirements. Since the site will be changing, it will likely be necessary for staff who update and/or manage the site to have some training as they will also need to be mindful of accessibility requirements as the site evolves. Hopefully this training will prevent issues from arising, but it is still prudent to have ongoing audits to ensure compliance is being maintained. To assist everybody with compliance, it is useful to produce an accessibility policy. This can also provide guidance to disabled individuals about how they interact with the website and how they request further modifications they feel might be necessary.
The regulations of the ADA are not in themselves complex, but there is a lengthy set of considerations, which is why many schools are seeing expert guidance when auditing and updating their current site. The recent litigation examples have cast the spotlight on schools and it is apparent for those that do not comply, there will be serious penalties. Beyond this being a legal requirement, it is an important step to ensure that the school encourages applications from those who are disabled, and the school community as a whole is regarded as inclusive.