We're excited to report that Blackbaud K–12’s development team has increased Blackbaud School Website SystemTM’s accessibility compliance to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines' (WCAG) AA standard. WCAG is developed and maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3), the leading international standards organization for the World Wide Web.
WCAG defines three levels of compliance—A, AA, and AAA—for various criteria that address all disabilities (not just visual impairments). Most legislation points to the AA 2.0 version of WCAG, but Blackbaud School Website System is currently compliant with the 2.1 update.
The crucial takeaway is that while Blackbaud School Website System adheres to WCAG, compliance is also dependent on how the school manages its website content.
Why is website accessibility so important?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.6% of the United States population has a disability. The 2017 Canadian Disability survey reports that 22% of the Canadian population is disabled. What’s more, people with disabilities earn less than their counterparts without disabilities. While there's likely a myriad of factors for this discrepancy, it's not a stretch to suggest that fair access to high-quality education is one of them.
In addition to making your school’s website available to all potential applicants, there are significant and potentially costly legal ramifications for being out of compliance. In the United States, the driving force behind website accessibility is Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The legal standard for Title III’s application to websites has played out like a tennis match between Congress and the Department of Justice. The main question is whether Title III’s definition of “public accommodation” applies to websites.
The lack of clarity has led to an explosion of litigation. From 2017 to 2018, the number of website accessibility lawsuits in the United States jumped 177% from 814 to 2,258. In 2018, there were 1,564 lawsuits in New York alone, many of them involving organizations that do business outside of the state. One case receiving a lot of attention is that of Jason Camacho, a blind resident of Brooklyn, New York, who is suing 50 of the top colleges and universities around the country.
While the Camacho case bears watching, in February of 2019, the Ninth U.S. District Court ruled in Robles v. Dominoes Pizza that the ADA pertains to websites because “...the ADA applies to the services of a public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation.” Furthermore, they stated that noncompliance with WCAG isn’t necessarily an ADA violation, but that the court can order compliance at the AA level as an equitable remedy. This could prove more costly than fines.
In Canada, the push for website accessibility compliance is more straightforward. The proposed Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81), which could have fines up to $250,000, was passed in the House of Commons and is currently in the Senate. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia have also passed website accessibility laws, and other providences are in the process of following suit. As for guidelines, these legislations will likely point to WCAG as the standard.
Website Accessibility Enhancements
Most of the recent accessibility enhancements are code updates; however, two new features do impact website management.
Audio and Video Transcripts
The first new feature is the ability to add transcripts to audio and video files. For audio files, there's a box for entering transcript text that will display on the page as a description beneath the audio player.
Video files can display transcripts as closed captioning by uploading a .vtt file.
If your video editing tools can't create .vtt files, software companies such as 3Play Media and Rev offer video transcription services. Once the files are added to videos in Blackbaud School Website System, users can toggle captions on or off in the video player.
Skip to Content
The second item that schools should add to their websites as soon as possible is the Skip to Content widget. Without this feature in place, screen readers and keyboard-only users tabbing down the page must go through every navigation item in the header before getting to the content. As you can imagine, this is extremely tedious and repetitive.
To enable keyboard-only users and those using screen readers to bypass the navigation and the repeated elements in the header, add the Skip to Content widget on Master Layouts above the Page Content widget (as shown below) or on a regular page before the primary content.
Once the Skip to Content widget is in place, a link will appear in the header as shown below that skips users to where the widget was placed in the layout.
Learn More About Website Accessibility Optimization
There’s a lot more to know about managing content for website compliance. Check out our tip sheet, “Website Accessibility Guidelines for Private Schools;” listen to our podcast, “Does ADA Compliance for Website Accessibility Apply to Private Schools?” with Anne Caggiano, a lawyer on Blackbaud’s legal team; and review the UC19 presentation, "How to Make Your School Website Accessible."
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