School Websites Flunked Accessibility
On Australia Day, at home relaxing and reading, I stumbled on a great article titled Digital Accessibility Year in Review: 2020 and it includes a section titled, ‘School Websites Flunked Accessibility’. It discusses web accessibility and schools in the United States. The article reveals that during recent automated testing, significant accessibility issues were identified on school websites.
Like their counterparts in the United States, Australian schools, and more specifically those of South Australia, have flunked accessibility. Over the past three years, I have carried out tests on a wide range of educational websites in South Australia and found similar issues.
Last year, COVID-19 triggered major changes in the education sector, while further highlighting accessibility issues. For a time, remote learning was the only way for students to learn. However, resources were not accessible for all. As I noted back in August 2020 in my post, Schools Must Be Made Accessible More Than Ever, COVID-19 related-changes have highlighted the need for schools to make their platforms and online content accessible, so that they support all of their students and including those learning remotely.
It’s been over a year and a half since the South Australian government released its online accessibility policy for all government websites. This policy paves the way for government school websites to be made accessible, but sadly it has been largely ignored.
It is important to acknowledge that a large number of school websites have been launched in South Australia since the policy was released. However, the vast majority of these websites are not accessible nor follow WCAG. In a handful of cases, websites were built using an accessible platform, which is a good start. However, for a website to be truly accessible, WCAG must be employed on all website elements. This means that an accessible website requires ongoing technical work, and by a professional who is experienced in applying WCAG.
Meanwhile, we still need to work towards redefining what a good modern school website is. Many still believe that a modern school website must contain bright colours, with animation and video running in the background as soon as the page loads. A truly modern website is one that is inclusive, meaning it can be accessed by as many members of our community as possible.
Lately, there’s been a great deal press about some lives matter. I personally believe that ALL lives matter! Making the websites of our schools accessible is an important way of demonstrating that everyone matters in our tech-savvy society.
Edu Net Solutions is proud to be the only web development company in South Australia that has launched all school websites accessible since then the policy release. Our school template was audited by Vision Australia. We have extensive experience applying WCAG to our websites.
While schools websites flunked accessibility, let’s learn from our mistakes and make the online educational sector more inclusive.