Chapter 3

There is more to planning an ADA-compliant website than simply recognizing the barriors and making quick fixes. Keeping a website accessible is an ongoing challenge. Your path to school website accessibility requires being strategic, using the right tools, and putting in place a web accessibility plan that makes ADA-compliance a continuous program of eliminating obstacles to website content. 


Path to school website accessibility

Regardless of where your school is on the road to creating and maintaining a fully accessible website, it's important to keep in mind that making your website ADA-compliant is a process, not just a singular task. Keep these principles and steps in mind to not only meet federal laws for ADA-compliance laws, but show your entire school community the value you place on meeting the communication needs of people with disabilities.


Step 1: Discover

Discovery can come from a concerned parent, a disability advocacy group, the Office for Civil rights or just about anywhere. While school website accessibility compliance often starts with a complaint, some school districts are taking the initiative on their own to address the web needs of people with disabilities. Discovery is an ongoing discipline as new content and technologies are incorporated into your web communication.


Step 2: Understand

There are two major components of understanding where your school or district stands with website accessibility: conducting an audit and appointing a coordinator. A thorough audit identifies and prioritizes the corrections needed. Having one person responsible for accessibility not only helps identify and correct accessibility issues, but creates accountability, diligence, and ongoing management of ADA-compliance.


Step 3: Share

Everyone in your school community should be aware of the positive steps you're taking, and transparency is the best practice. By publishing your website accessibility information you demonstrate your school is not only meeting legal requirement, but being inclusive and ethically responsive. Post a website accessibility policy on your website and share it in emails, take-homes, and etc.


Step 4: Implement

Your final step is creating your plan and making special effort to reach out to individuals or groups most interested or affected by your plan. Your plan should include choosing a CMS provider versed and experienced in creating ADA-compliance websites. By partnering with a provider with the know-how, you should expect the tools, training, reporting and necessary updates to keep your website accessible.


The percentage of the U.S. population that has a disability.

Steps to planning an ADA-compliant website

Like any undertaking with multiple people involved, it's important to have a plan in place to create and maintain an ADA-compliant school website. Planning a fully accessible website requires careful coordination with school administration and your website vendor. Then once your ADA-compliant website is up and running, you need to make sure it stays compliant as your website contributors make updates to your web content.

Here's a step-by-step plan that can be adjusted and tailored for your school.


1. Establish a policy

First, you need to set the standards of what is expected of everyone who is a part of managing and contributing to the website. This may be the website vendor, faculty, staff or anyone else that updates the website. Your policy can simply be a web page that lists out all of the requirements to maintain an ADA-compliant website. You can even create a form that everyone agrees before allowing access.


2. Ensure you have a system that can support

After establishing your policy, make sure your current system can accommodate these updates. Most modern CMSs will cover the page updating, but you may have to have your school website provider handle template modification. If you do not have a compatible system in place, you may want to start planning for a new CMS.


3. Run an audit on your website

There are several audit tools that you can use including WAVE, WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation tool for web sites. Or you can buy a software to run checks on your website. SortSite Desktop, for example, is one tool that makes it very simple to run on your website and adjust reports.


4. Develop a plan for updating your website

Assess and determine what needs to be done to your website to make it accessible. Create a list of items to be addressed. Focus on the high-level pages first, then work your way down to the secondary pages. You can enlist the help of an intern, parent or student helper that can assist on these updates.


5. Make it easy for visitors to provide feedback

Place a link in the footer on the website that says “Website Feedback”. This will serve as a way for visitors to bring to light any issues or recommendations to make the website more friendly.


6. Plan on monitoring the website bi-annually

Schedule a review that entails running an audit, addressing feedback and applying fixes discovered in the review. Summer break is a good time to schedule your review, although school website accessibility monitoring and management should really be a daily process and part of your SOP.


7. Stay close to your disability group

Finally, build an email list and keep your visitors with disabilities up to date on the new improvements being updated on the website, and ask for feedback.



How to create a school website accessibility policy

You are required to publish a school website accessibility policy, so follow these steps to creating and publishing yours.


1. Build your team

Assuming your school or district has the full support of its school board and superintendent, assembling a web accessibility team is your first step in forming your policy. Your team should include a senior communications and IT staffer to handle overarching content and technical issues. 

This is the time to appoint a web accessibility coordinator who assumes the responsibility for not only making the website accessible, but keeping it so, and training your contributors going forward. Your team should also include representation from key content contributors who can share the technical direction required to create content properly and fix the problems when they occur. Certainly, if there’s a person with disabilities on your staff who wants to participate, such perspective is very valuable in the journey to compliance.


2. Spell it out

Write a short and succinct web accessibility mission or summary that speaks to your commitment to making your district’s website and other digital communications ADA compliant. This should come from your superintendent. Your school board and all school leadership need to embrace your web accessibility mission.


3. Review the rules

Provide an overview of the standards you’ll be following to bring your website into compliance. No need to go overboard or drill too deep here, but WCAG 2.1 is the international standard the U.S. government and educational institutions have adopted to steer their website design.


4. Map out your plan

If you have a time frame in mind share it. You’ll probably need to phase in the steps toward full compliance, but believe it or not, with this step, you’re well on the road, for demonstrating you’re taking the steps toward compliance is a huge hurdle to cross. TIP: Check with your existing or new website CMS provider to help you map out a realistic time frame for making your school website ADA compliant.


5. Promote your policy

Create a vehicle to document and promote that your school is on the road to website ADA compliance and accessibility. This is easily accomplished by establishing a dedicated page on your website that outlines your mission and gives your school community a way to submit any issues or complaints about areas of your website that need your attention. In addition, use other communication channels – digital and non-digital (e.g., email, social media, posters) to promote your policy. This final step is critical to creating a dialogue and helping you prioritize the issues of greatest and specific concern to your website visitors.


For a ready-made form, download this school website accessibility template made available from the from Campus Suite School Website Accessibility Education Center.



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Publish your policy

The first thing to do to get your school website on the path to ADA-compliance is to publish a website accessibility policy. It's an important first step and required by law. No matter how early on you are in your accessibility mission, publish your policy and put a link to it on your website.