In this modern era where the majority of the population, including students, frequently use the online web, it’s crucial for all users to have fair access to educational websites – ones that are fully accessible to them, whether they are able-bodied or not. This is not just an ethical issue, as public schools are legally required to be ADA compliant through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additionally, with the recent Florida Federal court ruling in the case of Carlos Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., a precedent-setting case, the timeline for schools complying with ADA standards to avoid otherwise inevitable legal action has been accelerated. Educational institutions are also expected to be the subject of new legal mandates in the near future, following the additional legal requirements and new standards for federal agency websites that went into effect in January of 2018. In order for your school to be fully compliant with ADA regulations and provide proper access to users with disabilities, an accessible website must be established.
In January of 2017, the federal government introduced a new mandate requiring the websites of federal agencies to be made fully ADA compliant. Even prior to the announcement of this mandate and the speculation that similar mandates for educational institutions were on the horizon, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) was already investigating schools across the country for discrimination against Americans with disabilities. Additionally, lawsuits were starting to emerge against educational institutions for not complying with website accessibility standards. For example, a Seattle school recently paid over $800,000.00 to settle a suit filed in 2014 claiming a portion of the school’s website was inaccessible to people who are blind. This is one of the first cases that directly targeted an educational institution for failing to provide a website that was accessible by all users. As more of these lawsuits are surfacing, the importance of adhering to ADA Standards and providing a fully accessible website is paramount.
According to the last U.S. census, about 57 million people (nearly 20% of the population) was reported to have a disability. 15 million of those people were reported to have difficulty hearing or seeing. With such a large sum of Americans potentially facing difficulties attempting to use an inaccessible website, it’s clear why ADA standards should be followed and why federal agencies, such as the Office of Civil Rights, are aiming to take action against violators. What people with disabilities experience when using an inaccessible website may be hard to envision; imagine listening to an audiobook and your device suddenly starts reading random context, completely irrelevant to what you just heard. Or, imagine how difficult it would be to read a web page if it were read aloud in one long continuous sentence.
In order to ensure that everyone has fair access to the web, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA standard is becoming globally adopted. To become compliant, the guidelines listed therein must be followed. The guidelines contain over 60 “success criteria”, which includes using alternative text for images, providing captions for all live audio content in synchronized media, ensuring the visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, and making all functionality of the website available from a keyboard. Considering that these are merely a few examples of the success criteria, it’s clear that achieving a state of compliance may require, depending greatly on the size and structure of the site, a significant amount of time, even with experienced developers. In order to discover and remediate all potential compliance issues, thus making your website accessible, hiring an agency that specializes in Website ADA Compliance would make the process easier and more precise.
With so many individuals in our country who may face difficulty using websites that are inaccessible, ensuring the accessibility of your school’s website should be of high priority. If the website proves to be inaccessible, not only does that mean an entire community is ostracized, with the school potentially missing out on working with incredible people, but it also means that the school is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This opens the door for the school to be investigated for its non-compliance or, even worse, the possibility of facing discrimination lawsuits. The time to take action is now, reach out to an ADA Specialist or an Agency that specializes in Website ADA Compliance to first find out if your school’s website is ADA compliant. At the Niki Jones Agency, Inc., we will provide you with a full ADA Compliance Analysis Report; if your website is determined to be non-compliant, we will offer remediation services to bring your school’s website into a full state of compliance. To learn more, please visit www.nikijones.com/ada or call us at 845-856-1266.
Niki Jones Agency