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A recent set of lawsuits against U.S. colleges and universities seeks to compel them to make their websites and online course materials, as well as the technologies used in the classroom, accessible to people with disabilities.

The challenge brings up issues that colleges traditionally haven’t had to deal with: website ADA compliance. But in an industry that seeks to level the playing field for all involved, ADA compliance should be part of every college website’s DNA.

While the web designers and coders can find and execute the specifics of a compliance program, what are the broader things you can you do to travel the road to full ADA website compliance.

Ask someone who uses an ADA-compliance website

If you’re not one of the people who relies on an ADA-compliant site, ask someone who is. What do they like about sites they use on a regular basis? What are some of the pain points and hiccups that prevent an ADA-compliant site from working well?

Talk to outside professionals

While your web team should be your first call, an objective look at your site (see item 1) can also help. As with lots of other tasks, sometimes there’s more than one way to accomplish your goals. An ADA audit will help tremendously as well, and identify areas where your website is lacking.

Realize the transition will be less painful than you may think

Most college websites can be brought into compliance rather quickly, sometimes in just a few weeks. That investment is also worthwhile when you think about what you lose by not acting: with colleges and universities nationwide seeing dips in enrollment, tapping into an underserved market can bring new prospects with unique perspectives, lending to the greater diversity of the student body.

Being inclusive is something that all colleges strive to do; leaving out this segment of your market can only be viewed as a loss to the bottom line, as well as the mission of your institution.

By seeing ADA compliance as an opportunity rather than a burden, you can reach out to new audiences who are eager to engage with your college or university and convert fans—who could turn into tuition-paying students and generous alumni.

Frank Durante
When not sea kayaking at his favorite spot in Maine, Frank (no relation to Jimmy) leads Austin & Williams’ digital development team in making seemingly “impossible” projects come to life.

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