Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Will It Take Thousands of Dollars to Make Your Website Accessible? The Followup

Back in November I made a post Is Your Website Accessible? and promised to report after going to my local school district to talk about their website.   Last month, just before the holiday break I attended the School Board Meeting, where I made a brief presentation during the public comment period.   The rules don't allow the Board members to respond, they just listen.   I gave them two handouts, the OCR press release referenced in the prior posting, and summaries from two different web accessibility tools.  I don't expect anyone to simply accept my statement that their website isn't legally accessible, especially if they don't know me,

I heard from the Superintendent the very next day.  She said in part:
I wanted to let you know that we started today trying to figure out how to go about improving our website to be compliant. My technology staff is researching options for us...
Are you aware of any grants or other financial assistance in helping small districts like us to create and maintain websites that are compliant? We use a free service now and my preliminary contacts with two companies today said the initial cost would be thousands of dollars.
My first reaction was directed the two contacts who told the Superintendent it would cost thousands of dollars.  The only problems identified by the accessibility tools were lack of ALT tags.  I doubt the companies saw the reports or bothered to look at the site.  Ideally the companies would not have given an estimate without some investigation.  I'm afraid the companies she contacted might not fully understand what an accessible website is, or what it can take to make it compliant.

I suggested to the Superintendent that the accessibility issues could probably be handled by the district's computer science students.  I referenced the WebAim page on Alt tags. The Superintendent said the tech team would review my email at their January meeting.  I've not heard anything this month.

I took the response as positive.  Of course, action will be the proof.

As for the question about grants, I don't know of any.  In my role as Public Policy Chair of  TxDLA I have been talking with my state representative about proposing a bill to get money to help educational institutions bring their digital resources into compliance, but he doesn't believe we can get the funds this session, but did outline a plan to be successful at the next session.

The bottom line to the story is that the lack of labels for graphics on websites (the alt tags) are the most commonly cited problem in the dozens of OCR and DoJ reports I've seen, and they are one of the easiest things to fix, if the folks posting graphics and photos would just use the dialog box that asks for the description.  It won't take thousands of dollars.