The AODA does not yet have an education standard. Two committees are making recommendations about what an education standard should include. One issue that an education standard should address is access to information. Schools and school boards should be required to make all information available to all students. One way for schools and school boards to do so could be by posting information on accessible education websites.
Accessible Education Websites
Under the AODA’s Information and Communications Standards, all public-sector organizations, and private sector organizations with fifty or more workers, must make their websites accessible by January 2021. In other words, school boards and other large educational organizations will soon be required to make themselves accessible online. These organizations may include:
- Public and private schools
- School boards
- School libraries
- Producers of educational or training materials, such as textbook publishers
However, when smaller organizations also offer accessible websites, they can welcome more students.
Schools and school boards can start offering accessible information online by creating websites that comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on how to make their webpages accessible to computer users with disabilities.
Highlights of WCAG 2.0
WCAG 2.0 guidelines describe how people viewing websites should be able to:
- Perceive and navigate web content, such as with:
- Text, instead of images of text
- Information that can be enlarged up to 200 per cent without losing site functionality
- Good colour contrast between text and background
- Buttons labeled with words, not just with pictures, shapes, or colours
- Captions available for all audio
- Audio descriptions and captions available for all videos
- Operate websites, such as with:
- Keyboard commands instead of mouse clicking
- Options to extend time limits
- No elements that might induce seizures, such as flashing lights
- Titles and headings that help users know where they are
- Understand website information and layout, such as with:
- Simple, linear layouts that are the same for each page of a website
- Clear language, instead of figures of speech
- Clear instructions for completing tasks, such as online exercises or tests
- Text descriptions of errors when inputting information
- Sign language interpretation
- Definitions of unusual words and abbreviations
- Visit websites using a variety of assistive technology, such as:
- Screen readers and Braille displays
- Screen magnifiers
- Speech recognition programs
The WCAG webpage provides the full list of requirements, as well as technical guidance for website owners and developers on how to implement them.
All educational institutions should work on making their websites comply with WCAG 2.0, level AA. In the meantime, however, institutions can make their services accessible in other ways. For instance, educators can provide information to students, parents, teachers, and visitors with disabilities:
- In person
- By phone or teletypewriter (TTY)
- By email
Reaching more people
However, accessible education websites allow more information to reach more people. This method reduces the time that educators would otherwise spend giving similar information to each person one at a time.
In addition, many schools and school boards now use apps in class, or to communicate with parents. Our next article will focus on accessible education apps.