10 Digital Accessibility Tips for schools
As children across the motu head back for another school year, here are ten top tips to help schools improve their digital inclusion for parents and students.
The increasing reliance on online resources for students and parents presents many access challenges. Often the content and platforms are not as accessible as they should be. Many parents of mainstream students have disabilities and struggle to access the information to support their children through school.
Navigating digital platforms with lots of content, especially moving content can be daunting, especially for students with diverse needs and their parents looking for information to support their children.
As children across the motu head back for another school year, we’d like to offer some top tips for schools to improve their digital inclusion. To encourage a more inclusive and accessible online environment for all, here are ten tips for schools to consider for their digital platforms.
1. Keep content simple, clear and jargon free
One of the most fundamental aspects of digital accessibility is using straightforward language. For schools there can be historic buzz words used for very simple things such as observation days that mean something to the school but maybe not to everyone. Unless you are already well established in a school’s culture you may be unfamiliar with these terms. Schools should avoid jargon and complex terminology, ensuring that information is easily understood by all students, regardless of their cognitive abilities.
2. Foster trust by using familiar formats and logos
Changing or starting at new schools can be daunting, especially if you are changing from say intermediate to high school. Students and their parents need to trust that they have the right information from a trusted source. Schools should design all digital content in a way that reinforces the authenticity of the information presented. A clean, professional layout, with known logos and consistent designs can enhance the trustworthiness of the content, making it more accessible and engaging for students and their parents.
3. Use sound, vision and movement to cater for different learning styles
We all learn differently, and people have different access needs. Incorporate sound, vision, and movement strategically to capture and maintain students' attention. Schools need to ensure that visual elements, audio cues, and interactive components enhance the learning experience, making digital content more engaging and memorable.
4. Always say NO to auto-starting videos or audio or movement
Auto playing video or audio, or movement might be recommended by your digital agency to show that you are dynamic school. But it can also can be disruptive and overwhelming, particularly for students or parents who may have sensory sensitivities. If your website contains video / audio content DO NOT auto play as this can cause major disruption for assistive tech users and people with cognitive issues.
5. Provide the user control of multimedia
Instead, make sure that any movement, videos or sounds in digital content can be controlled by the user. Providing options to pause, hide, or stop multimedia elements. This allows students, and their parents, to tailor their experience based on their individual needs and preferences.
6. Bigger is usually better
Providing bigger buttons is especially important for younger students who have less fine motor control, but also for grandparents or other carers who have limited dexterity. Opt for big buttons and click zones over tiny, hard-to-hit elements. A touch-friendly design with ample spacing can enhance navigation for all users.
7. Make content easy to find
There is nothing more frustrating for a parent than not being able to confirm whether it is mufti-day or not before school which the family morning chaos is happening around them. Schools should spend more time on organsing their content in a way that makes sense to students and parents. More often that not the content is organised by an internal need instead.
8. Use HTML content on the website by default
Schools send out a lot of notices. These can come though apps, social media, emails with links, emails with attachments, and even in good old paper flyers. It is hard for children to remember all that is going on in their lives, and even harder for parents to juggle multiple info feeds from multiple platforms and multiple schools. And there are all the PDFs that need to be downloaded which can have an impact on families with limited data or access to the internet. Schools should opt for simplicity when it comes notices. Choose one platform (ideally HTML on the website). This will mean students and parents can find everything they need online, print it if they want, use their assistive tech if they need and they will not only load faster but also consume less data.
9. Make sure your website is responsive
Despite the requests to Bring your Own Device, many families do not have access to multiple devices, or the latest devices. Some do not have any connectivity at home. To ensure your website is responsive and works well on different devices and screen sizes create simple, intuitive layouts that allow users to focus on the essential information. Provide options for users to delve deeper into content without overwhelming them with unnecessary details. Use clear and concise language in headings, paragraphs, and links. Test for accessibility on various devices, including mobile phones and tablets.
Implementing these digital accessibility tips will not only benefit students with specific needs but also enhance the overall online learning experience for everyone. By prioritising inclusivity, schools can create a more welcoming and accessible environment for students as they embark on another academic year in the digital age.