ADA Web Accessibility Compliance for Higher Education
College and university officials, at both public and private institutions, have been made increasingly aware of the importance of web accessibility in higher education in recent years. To start, there have been a number of highly-publicized lawsuits that have brought significant attention to the need for school website compliance; and then in 2018, we saw major updates to two pieces of legislation: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Section 508 standards of the Rehabilitation Act.
With this movement toward greater ADA compliance in higher education, colleges and universities across the country are finding themselves in need of updates to their websites – with some requiring just a handful of minor tweaks, and others needing to undergo more sweeping changes. We have compiled a checklist of some of the most important points to consider when auditing your own higher ed website for ADA compliance. But first, it’s important to understand what web accessibility in higher education actually entails, as well as its implications.
What is web accessibility for higher education?
Full website accessibility is achieved when a site can be navigated and utilized to the same degree by all people, regardless of their level of ability. This includes not only individuals who are blind or hard of hearing, but also people who may be color blind or prone to seizures, or whose physical limitations require that they utilize a keyboard only, as opposed to a mouse, for navigation purposes.
Full web accessibility for higher education, in specific, is achieved when any and all digital content created by faculty or staff meets those same standards. So, in order to be considered in full Section 508 compliance for higher education, not only must the school’s general website be accessible, but so too must all digital content, including:
- Student & course portals
- Faculty portals
- Online student applications
- Grant & endowment forms
- Careers & employment
- Bursar’s Office – Financial aid & billing
Why do we need it?
Disability compliance for higher education is meant to lay the foundation for equal opportunity learning so that anyone who wishes to access your content is able to enjoy, interact with and learn from it with equivalent ease of use.
By not meeting these higher education accessibility requirements, your school may find itself:
- Unable to give all students, faculty and staff access to the same information
- Unable to reach all individuals within its target market
- Under the threat of a lawsuit
Checklist for ADA compliance in higher education
ADA compliance in higher education can be achieved, in part, by asking yourself: Is your website POUR? According to the most recent WCAG 2.1 guidelines, POUR stands for Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust, and the acronym serves as a general reminder of all that your website should strive to be.
- Perceivable – Make your content easy to see and hear, even for individuals who are visually or hearing impaired.
- Provide text alternatives to visual images
- Provide captions, audio descriptions and/or sign language interpretations on all audio and visual media
- Identify the purpose of each page, and organize content in meaningful sequences
- Make all content distinguishable by allowing for options related to high contrast colors, increased font sizes and full audio controls
- Operable – Design your website to be useable by someone with poor motor function, or who may need extra time to navigate each page.
- Make the site navigable by keyboard only, as well as through various inputs beyond the keyboard
- Avoid elements with time limits
- Do not include any items that flash more than three times in a one-second period
- Allow for multiple ways to navigate to each page
- Understandable – Provide content that is easily readable.
- All copy should be available at a reading level no more advanced than the lower secondary education level
- Make each page appear and operate in predictable ways
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes by identifying errors and describing them in text
- Robust – Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents.
- Build your site to work in conjunction with existing assistive technologies
- Leave the opportunity open to adapt to new technologies that may become available in the future
The POUR checklist is a great tool for auditing your existing website to ensure web accessibility for higher education; but for additional information, or for help building a new ADA compliant website from the ground up, contact Paradigm Marketing and Design today to schedule a consultation.