Accessibility and US School Websites

Royce Kimmons found out how US schools struggle with website accessibility issues.

Imagine going through high school with a vision disability. You visit your school’s website to view some important information regarding graduation, but the words on the webpage are too small to read and the colors of the text blend into the background. This frustrating scenario is a reality for many US people with disabilities when they try to access K–12 school websites. 
 
Royce Kimmons headshotRoyce Kimmons, McKay School instructional psychology and technology assistant professor, stressed, “School website accessibility is an important equity issue that affects students, parents, and communities.” Kimmons and Jared Smith, associate director of WebAIM at Utah State University, set out to determine how school demographics influence accessibility.  
 
Kimmons and Smith used the WebAIM WAVE accessibility evaluation tool to gauge the accessibility of K–12 website homepages around the United States. In their analysis, they evaluated the influence of demographic factors and the different types of possible webpage errors or alerts. 
 
The results of their study confirmed that US school websites generally have accessibility issues. In fact, two-thirds of nationwide schools are struggling with accessibility in some manner mainly due to the circumstances of individual schools.  
 
To improve school website accessibility, Kimmons and Smith identified specific areas to focus on, such as creating more contrast between text and background, training the website content authors to provide alternative text describing the images, or evaluating the current content management system to make sure code is up to date. Kimmons said, “The biggest barrier to doing this seems to be a simple shift in mindset from focusing on what works just for the ‘average’ person to what works for all people.” 
 
Kimmons and Smith’s study, entitled “Accessibility in mind? A nationwide study of K–12 Web sites in the United States,” was published in the open-access journal First Monday to spread the word of the need to make school websites more accessible for people with disabilities and to provide simple methods to start improving school websites now.  
 
Kimmons emphasized the importance of user-friendly websites by saying, “Just like putting a wheelchair ramp in front of a public building helps a variety of people—from pregnant mothers to little children to people who are wheelchair-bound—making websites more accessible to people with disabilities also improves experiences for everybody by making school websites more usable and accessible for all.” 
 
Writer: Anna Canlas 
Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922