Website accessibility is on every K-12 communications professional’s mind, and it should be! Not only are there legal reasons to make your website accessible to everyone, it’s also the right thing to do.
Your district goes to great lengths to make your buildings and classrooms accessible. Your communication channels should be no different. Everyone in your school district community deserves to engage with the information you put online.
However, understanding current accessibility guidelines and putting an action plan in place can be a challenge if you don’t have a background in web design. We find it very helpful to think of accessibility in terms of three key areas of responsibility:
Your Website Designer
Good web design and proper testing gets you most of the way there! If your designer knows what she’s doing you will avoid many of the accessibility pitfalls that get built into inferior websites.
Your Content Management System (CMS)
Pick a CMS that makes it easy for you to comply with accessibility guidelines when you add content to your site.
Your role as a content creator is to make sure the content you add to your website complies with accessibility guidelines. That means adding clear, descriptive text alternatives to visual and audio media for visitors who use assistive technology to understand website content.
Here are some simple steps you can take now to make your school district website content more accessible:
Images uploaded to your site should have an alt tag, a snippet of text that describes what is shown in the image for people who can’t see it. Get in the habit of adding an alt tag any time you upload an image.
Your alt tags should be accurate and descriptive, but not too long. For example “A teacher reading to two students in a classroom” describes an image much better than “Having fun learning!”
Also be wary of using images with text in them; assistive devices can’t read text in an image.
When you upload audio and video media to your website, make sure to include a text alternative. Video files should have both a time-synced caption file and a descriptive transcript describing what happens in the video. Luckily there are several free products that help you create these types of files, and if you upload your videos to a Youtube channel you can easily create a caption file in Youtube.
Page titles, headers, links and form fields
Make sure the names you give to pages, headers, links and fields clearly describe their context and purpose. This makes everyone's experience on your website more efficient, not just those using assistive technology.
Remember that not everyone perceives colour the same way, so colour should not be the only way to interpret meaning on a page. For example, don't assume your visitors can all interpret a colour-coded chart; make sure you communicate the exact same information in text.
Files uploaded to school district websites can create a lot of dead ends for people using assistive technology. Before uploading your files, learn how to properly tag your PDFs so that blocks of text and image tags can be read in the proper order by assistive devices.