One issue of great importance is that of accessibility. School web sites should be easily accessible to a wide range of audiences including persons with disabilities. By following certain guidelines, your school site can be made more accessible:
- Graphics:Users with visual impairments have specific difficulties that need to be addressed. Screen reading software is available that can read the text in a web page aloud. However, a common problem involves images. A sighted web user sees the images on the screen, but a user with a visual impairment needs the screen reader to describe the images. By including alternative text for each image, the screen reader can give the user a description of the image. Be sure the alternative text uses descriptive language. For more information on the proper use of alternative text, visit the WebAIM site. The use of images as text (such as headings) should be avoided.
- Tables:Tables are particularly difficult for screen readers to interpret because a table is generally not designed to be read from left to right. For this reason, the use of tables for layout should be avoided. Tables should instead be used to present tabular data, and they should include a summary describing the table’s contents. For more information on how to build accessible tables, visit this web usability site.
- Font size:Font size is an important issue to keep in mind when those with limited vision visit your site. It is best to use relative font size instead of absolute. One way to specify a relative font size is by using percentages. More information on the different techniques for specifying relative font size, and the issues that need to be considered with each is available on this web site.
- Color:Visitors to your site who have difficulty distinguishing color should also be considered. When designing your site, use colors that have high contrast. For example, use a light background with dark text. This also facilitates printing. Color blindness is another issue to consider and more information can be found at Vischeck. This site also allows you to see what your site will look like to a person with a color deficiency.
- Hearing considerations:Video and audio are great additions to a site. Users with hearing impairments can be accommodated by adding captions directly to the video or a transcript of the audio that can be accessed separately. In other words, video and audio should be accompanied by equivalent text versions.
- Language issues:When writing for the Web, it is important to consider how your words will be interpreted. For example, your students may be from other countries and their parents may speak a first language other that English. Therefore, it is important that the wording you use be very clear. Clarity can be improved by avoiding slang or jargon unfamiliar to non-native English speakers. Writing out acronyms is also helpful.
- Checking your site for accessibility:When your site is complete, you should have it reviewed for accessibility. One site, WebXACT, reviews your web site, analyzes its accessibility, and provides feedback on parts that do not meet specific criteria. A similar site for checking accessibility is WAVE.