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Improving Accessibility Improves Education - Here's How

Improving Accessibility Improves Education - Here's How

By: sageknox

22 Oct 2017

Whether you offer on-site, traditional classes or online-only courses, there are many arguments to made in favor of increasing accessibility to students of every stripe - let alone the legal arguments required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While the act doesn’t specifically pertain to course content accessibility, the federal requirements are far-reaching for educational institutions serving those with disabilities.

To stay ahead of Section 508 and maintain a level of accessibility for students with disabilities, you’ll need to consider the following in order to ensure your organization offers an accessible experience for all students and stays abreast of federal guidelines - therefore avoiding potential legal penalties.

Accessible Graphics, Images, and Videos

A major accessibility hurdle that many organizations aren’t even aware may be an issue, adding alt text to your website’s images, graphics, and videos is important to ensure complete accessibility for vision-impaired users. Especially due to the onset of visual-heavy design in modern websites, the importance of adding ereader-friendly text to your website will allow those with vision impairments to easily and effectively utilize the site’s functionality with the ability to get text descriptions of what’s happening in a graphic or visual element. But simply describing what’s in the image is the first step; if an image contains a link, for instance, labelling it with the contents of the image won’t be useful for users with vision impairments. Keeping your alt text descriptions concise, descriptive, and written with an active voice will help convey the needed information much more effectively than a lengthy block of text.

eReader Compatibility

If your site contains a lot of informational PDFs, you should be aware that some disabled users may access those documents using an ereader like a Kindle or iBook, which contains text-to-speech (TTS) functionality, allowing the contents to be read aloud to the user. Taking a look at your website’s PDF formatting and the number of PDFs on your site should be a top priority to ensure compliance with the ADA. If PDFs are not functioning properly on these devices, you should consider offering a plain text version or reformatting these documents to ensure compatibility with ereaders.

Decreased Load on Staff

Transitioning to a fully ADA-compliant website can be an incredibly time-consuming task, especially if the site has been rebuilt and repurposed several times over the years. Depending on the developers involved, some pages may not be consistent with any redesigns and that spells problems with compliance. Enlisting the help of a dedicated third-party transcription service can help alleviate the pressure of adding dedicated staff members to perform the heavy lifting.

Furthermore, a professional transcription company can act as a project manager for a site-wide overhaul of your needed alt text and audio/visual materials. With some education-focused transcription services starting at just $0.75 per minute, it’s a much more cost-effective option to tackle a major compliance push on the part of your educational institution.

Improved Searchability/Future Proofing

Search engines tend to push for increased accessibility for all users when evaluating what websites will be ranked more highly in search results, so when it comes time to consider a compliance push and potential redesign of a school’s website, it may be wise to consider the effort part of a marketing or promotional strategy. Furthermore, performing this important task can keep your site slightly more future-proofed than before. Because web standards change seemingly with the turn of the wind, you’ll want to push for a more progressive, future-minded approach to your website. With the advent of voice search and connected devices like Alexa, Google Home, and Siri, the way users reach and access your website’s information will change as more people adopt these devices.

According to a study, consumer adoption rates of these so-called “voice assistants” doubled in the first quarter of 2017 - a major sign to websites and search engines that the way people interact with web content is changing very rapidly, therefore demonstrating the importance of taking a future-forward approach to your website’s content. While it’s true that most people will opt for a desktop experience for school work, research, and consideration of what institutions to cite for academic work and potential enrollment, those expectations may not be valid in the years to come. Taking an aggressive stance toward voice-to-text standards in your website’s content will only help your institution going forward, so an investment made toward that transition could reap unforeseen benefits in the years to come.

Protects Against Old Web Standards

Just as Google demonstrated with its controlled approach to handling Adobe Flash updates in its Chrome browser, the search giant isn’t afraid to ditch old web standards in the march toward more effective, modern technologies. If this sounds like gobbledygook, it’s okay - just know that many elements in a website rely on older methods of displaying content (think Java or Flash), which can run you into hot water with both search engines and the ADA. If some of your video, audio, or course content is reliant on older web technologies, you may need to overhaul many aspects and transition back to a more text-friendly format to ensure compatibility with ereaders and accessibility tools.

Plenty of Options for Increased Accessibility

Fortunately for educational institutions, there are plenty of services available at affordable rates to transform your online and A/V resources to an accessible format for every standard. Professional transcription services specializing in education-focused content offer accurate, reliable turnaround for written transcripts. Whether you need an entire website transcribed to ADA-standards or just a few informational videos converted to a text format, Transcription Hub may be the answer you’ve been looking for. With dedication transcriptionists available 24/7 for expedited projects, you can ensure your institution’s online presence is accessible to anyone and everyone in the blink of an eye.

For more information about transcription services starting at just $0.75 per minute, contact Transcription Hub or begin your project online today with a few simple steps.