There are an estimated 61 million people with disabilities in the United States. While website accessibility is a federal regulation under The American Disabilities Act (ADA), many schools all over the country are falling short of creating a website that is fully accessible by all users. Not only does this put schools at risk of legal liability but it also excludes an entire demographic of prospective students and families. If your school’s brand message is all about diversity and inclusion but your website isn’t accessible for all people, your school’s brand message becomes instantly meaningless.
So how does your school’s website meet and maintain ADA requirements?
Step 1: Conduct an Accessibility Audit
Your accessible website journey begins by getting a full understanding of what it means to be ADA compliant. To be fully compliant with WCAG 2.0 requirements, your website will need more than just closed captions on all your videos. Meet with your legal team to learn about what exactly those requirements are, and the legal risks associated with not being ADA compliant.
Once you have a full understanding of what your website is supposed to do, it’s time to conduct an audit to discover what your website is currently doing. Start your audit by reaching out to your CMS provider and asking them what they are currently doing to achieve full ADA compliance. It’s possible your CMS provider already has a built-in tool to evaluate your compliance levels. If your CMS provider doesn’t have built-in software, there are several online tools you can use (like this free accessibility checker).
The purpose of this audit is to build an action plan that your website manager can use to achieve full ADA compliance. The website scan will produce a list of tasks that need to be completed in order to reach full compliance.
Step 2: Select a Website Provider & Accessibility Partner
After you fully conduct an accessibility audit, the best scenario would be that your current website provider is already fully compliant, or at least has the proper tools and capabilities for your website manager to achieve full compliance. If the audit shows your website needs work, start by asking your website provider what they can do to resolve any accessibility issues discovered during the audit. If your website provider is not capable of fixing these issues, it’s time to consider a new website provider and accessibility partner.
When selecting your website provider for ADA compliance, consider the following:
- Content migration: A new website means a new opportunity to showcase your brand but a lot of your existing content will still need to be brought over, so work with a vendor who is willing to help.
- Responsive design portfolio: An estimated 18% of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices. Your new website provider should have experience in responsive design that follows user experience trends and expectations.
- Manageable backend: Sometimes your team will need to make quick updates to your website. You want a system that is intuitive and easy to use for all your faculty and staff.
Not all website providers are equipped with accessibility tools; sometimes you will need to find a partner that can integrate with your website, or your website provider already has an add-on partner they work with.
When selecting your website accessibility partner, consider the following:
- Integration: Does this software easily integrate with your website provider?
- Onboarding: Does this software offer an onboarding process to make the integration as easy and seamless as possible?
- Reporting: Does this software offer regularly automated reporting to ensure the software is running properly?
- Ongoing Maintenance: Does this software offer additional support, training or a maintenance team to make necessary adjustments?
Step 3: Create Ongoing Maintenance Plan
As the internet and devices continue to evolve, so will the regulations for ADA compliance. Depending on the website provider and accessibility partner you select, you will need to come up with an ongoing maintenance plan.
- How often will there be an accessibility scan of your website?
- Who is responsible for making updates?
- How often will updates be made?
- How do you prioritize website updates?
Whether you have one website manager or a whole staff with website access, creating a formal process for website maintenance will help keep the to-do list organized.
Why Accessibility Matters
Making your website fully accessible and ADA compliant is not a simple task but it is well worth the investment. In fact, it should not be viewed as just consideration, but as a right. Ignoring the shortcomings of your website can be even more costly, and not just from a legal risk standpoint. Enhancing your school’s website accessibility also enhances your brand message and credibility. Diversity and inclusion are important brand characteristics to prospective students and families. Having an accessible website proves your school’s mission is not just words on a homepage or fancy brochure.
Blue Baden is the only marketing and strategy consulting company specifically designed to meet the needs of boarding schools. Elevate your website with Blue Baden today.