July 2017

Identifying and complying with online accessibility regulations

by Zach DiSchiano

Improving website accessibility for individuals with disabilities is not only a good district practice, but a requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Under Section 504, public entities are required to ensure equal access to all programs, services, and activities for individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would result in undue financial and administrative burden or fundamentally alter those programs, services, or activities. These requirements also apply to online programs, services, and activities.

Human resources administrators are consequently affected by these requirements because of their role in the development and implementation of online materials, including employee handbooks, job postings, and dozens of other common forms and documents available on the district’s website.

Understanding accessibility

Website accessibility means people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with a website. The concept includes all disabilities impacting access to the Internet:
  • Visual
    • Blindness
    • Low vision
    • Color blindness
  • Auditory
    • Deafness
    • Hard of hearing
  • Motor
    • Inability to use a mouse
    • Slow response time
    • Limited fine motor control
  • Cognitive
    • Learning disabilities
    • Distractibility
    • Inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information

Making web content accessible

Through the use of certain design features and tools, web content can be displayed in ways more likely to be accessible to users with disabilities. Examples of these features and tools include:
  • Using plain language to assist users with cognitive disabilities
  • Using headings and formatting tools in documents and alternative text in images to assist users dependent on screen readers
  • Captioning of videos to assists users with hearing impairments
  • Organizing of links and other navigation elements to assist users who can’t use a mouse
It’s important for districts to initiate discussions on issues related to website accessibility to avoid and resolve complaints in an expeditious manner. There are a wide range of resources to assists districts in transitioning their online content into an accessibility-friendly website: Additionally, TASB HR Services’ editable versions of the Model Employee Handbook have been completely reformatted to support accessibility for individuals with disabilities. It is recommended districts take the time to transfer local information into the 2017 version and refresh the format of their employee handbook.