Did you know that all public schools (school districts and charter schools), are required by state and federal law to make their websites accessible to ALL users, including those who are blind, deaf, or have other disabilities that require them to use assistive technology?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act require that students, parents and members of the public are able to independently acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same benefits and services within the same timeframe as their non-disabled peers, with substantially equivalent ease of use; and that they are not excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or otherwise subjected to discrimination in any School or District programs, services, and activities delivered online.
Every time you post on your school or district website, you are either making information accessible to those who will use the website, or creating unnecessary obstacles to public information. With a little knowledge, it is fairly easy to ensure all content that you upload is accessible to all users. This article will not go into the technical aspects of ensuring your school or district website is free of barriers to accessibility; however, there a few simple tips and tricks to remember when uploading content.
- ALT Tags. ALT tags are attributes that are assigned to HTML documents or images uploaded to a website that specify alternative text (alt text) for what is being displayed. ALT tags helps persons using “screen reader” software (which allows a person to “hear” what the webpage is displaying) to interact with the document or element that is on the webpage. For example, Ms. Jones posts a picture of herself on her class web page for parents to see. Unless she assigns an ALT tag to the picture that says, “Picture of Ms. Jones” the person using assistive technology would not know the picture was on the website, because it would not be picked up by the screen reader.
- Links on webpages. When navigating through a page, screen reading software will read the blue underlined words in a link to the user. For example, the following link: http://husd.com/homework/lib/Jones would be read by the screen reader as follows: “h, t, t, p, colon, slash, slash, w, w, w, dot, h,u,s,d, dot, com, slash, homework, slash, l, i, b, slash, jones.” (Try having someone else read this to you with your eyes closed in a fast, robotic voice and you will likely see how unhelpful the information is). Therefore, when uploading links to a page, be sure to think carefully about what you name the link. Perhaps something like “click here for Ms. Jones’ class homework” would be easier than spelling out or copying and pasting the link itself.
- Contrast Ratio. When building websites, or teacher pages within a website, you need to keep in mind that some people cannot read text if there is not sufficient contrast between the text and the background. For example, light gray text on a light background may be hard for a low-vision user to discern. Ensure that you are maintaining a good contrast ratio when choosing colors.
This article does not address all the requirements for making your websites accessible to persons with disabilities. Making a Web site accessible can be simple or complex, depending on many factors such as the type of content, the size and complexity of the site, and the development tools and environment. Many accessibility features are easily implemented if they are planned from the beginning of website development or redesign; however, fixing inaccessible Web sites can require significant effort, especially sites that were not originally “coded” properly and sites with certain types of content such as multimedia.
Most schools and districts employ webmasters to assist with their websites. You are encouraged to discuss with your school or district webmaster tips and tools to ensure any content that is uploaded to a school or district website is accessible to all users. More information can be found by visiting the Web Accessibility Initiative at http://www.w3.org/WAI/.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please feel free to contact Education Law Attorney, Kimberly R. Davis at 480.461.5387, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area.