With each passing day of the coronavirus pandemic, a new headline emerges on how student behaviors are changing in the present, or how they will forever be different in the future.
More students than ever are turning to online sources for their education, either by necessity or choice. It’s the same way they are turning to digital channels to stay fed, stay connected, and stay informed. Going digital may be an easy enough change for most American students, but for those living with a disability, it could mean being shut out from an accessible education.
Colleges and universities have a lot to juggle as they try to survive the crisis in front of all of us. But they also have to continue to think about how they serve their students. For colleges and universities, ADA compliant website design matters now more than ever.
What is ADA Compliant Website Design?
The American Disability Act (ADA) enacted in 1990 is a civil rights law that “prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.” Initially written with brick-and-mortar services in mind, it has since extended to websites and other digital platforms.
The industry standard for measuring ADA website compliance is by adhering to Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), rules written by a global organization that outline the design and technical standards which make websites accessible. Things like ensuring high color contrast, writing alt text for images, and limiting animations are a few of the things WCAG considers. You can find the full, direct-from-source guidelines here.
“For colleges and universities, ADA compliance matters now more than ever.”
Why is Now an Important Time to Consider ADA Website Compliance?
The answer is two-fold and simple.
First, online learning has experienced a surge over the last two years. In 2019, an already sizable 37% of American students took an online postsecondary education course. Like with a lot of digital trends, quarantine threw gas on the fire. By the end of 2020, the number was 52%. Now, 50% of students say they would enroll in online courses once campuses go back to normal operations. Cross-reference this rising trend with the fact that 1 in 4 Americans live with some type of disability, and we start to see the urgency behind ADA website compliance. It’s as much a savvy business decision as it is a moral imperative to ensure your website meets accessibility standards.
For younger students going through “traditional” post-secondary education, taking courses online will quickly be ingrained as part of their educational experience. Like online shopping or digital streaming, online learning is part of their everyday lives. For adult learners, already a strong group of online learners, the increased availability of online learning will only encourage them to pursue higher education opportunities.
When the pandemic is in our rearview mirror, these new consumer habits will remain. If your website is not ADA compliant, you may not be ready to serve your entire student population. When it comes to recruiting prospective students, having an ADA compliant admissions website, as well as ADA compliant learning options, will make sure you’re ready to offer an education to students of all abilities.
ADA Regulations Are Not Going Anywhere
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made it clear that ADA regulations are still in place, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The shift to online services has suddenly and unpredictably gone from gradual to explosive, and higher education is not exempt. You can’t afford to shut out a large segment of people by moving forward with inaccessible websites and other digital platforms.
As consumer behaviors change at warp speed, colleges and universities have to act just as fast. Now is the time to ensure our websites are ADA compliant so that the future we build is a future for all.
Time to reconsider your institution’s web design?