Keeping Higher Education Websites Accessible is Tough

It is inherent in higher education’s mission that websites work for all users. This obligation is usually called accessibility, rather than inclusivity. The former suggesting after thought. The latter denoting conscious design.

Web governance’s mandate includes operating websites everyone can use. In some areas, law mandates accessibility, in others it is a regulatory by-product and in still others website operators make the determination.

Regardless of the impetus for making higher education websites accessible evidence shows that it is difficult to keep them that way.

Automated testing can assess website accessibility, but the margin of error in the results requires skilled human intervention to interpret them. However, higher education’s devolved content creation means few content creators have the skills, time or training to fix accessibility issues. Moreover, maintenance can lose out to more exciting new feature, content or capability implementation.

What to do?

Higher education website teams should educate themselves on inclusive (accessible) design principles, boosting the chances live sites start out accessible.

A second approach uses content creation checklists and workflows to eliminate accessibility ‘issues’ at source.

Finally, governance groups need tools to monitor sites to ensure that accessibility (and other) issues are being measured and addressed.