A new version of Barton Community College’s “BartOnline.org” website was created with the Americans with Disabilities Act in mind. The site, which is more accessible for people with vision impairments, is scheduled to launch Wednesday.
The website it replaces may not seem to pose much of an obstacle, but a lot of thought went into the changes, said Brandon Steinert, Barton’s public relations director. Everything from back-end code to the choice of colors can make a difference.
People who are blind or have visual impairments may use assistive technology when they use computers and access the internet. Some use screen readers, devices that speak the text that would normally appear on a monitor. But a screen reader cannot interpret a piece of artwork. That can create a barrier to someone trying to navigate a page, said George Strobel, president of Central Kansas Association for the Visually Impaired.
“The biggest problem is finding the text boxes,” Strobel said. After that comes “finding the button to push for action.”
“ADA requirements are placed upon public service organizations, including governments, colleges, etc., to ensure websites are compatible with screen readers to assist people with visual impairment,” Steinert said. Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Justice will go into effect in 2018.
“These requirements govern quite a bit, actually,” Steinert said, describing some of the training and testing that went into the website.
For example, displaying pages in the school colors, blue and gold, created an obstacle. “We have eliminated gold from our websites because the contrast it had with other colors and text caused problems with screen readers.”
And although screen readers can’t “read” images, that isn’t a public on a well-designed page. When a screen reader hits an image on an accessible page, it will find and read an embedded “alt text” that it is not visible to anyone viewing the site. The alt text can help the reader interpret the page.
Making pages designed for mobile devices accessible is also helpful since those sites are already less cluttered. The new site has that advantage.
Finally, “You can use a free ADA checker plug-in on Google Chrome to see if a site has ADA issues,” Steinert said. “Almost all do — it just depends on severity,” he added. “About the only way to have a fully ADA compatible site is to make it black and white and only text.”
Barton has multiple websites, including www.bartonccc.edu and its military sites, such as Fort Riley’s frmilitary.bartonccc.edu, and “a couple dozen” page editors, which makes maintaining the sites a challenge.
For more information on CKAVI: Central Kansas Association for the Visually Impaired is a local support group that meets at 1 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month at Great Bend Senior Center, 2005 Kansas Ave. Call 617-8980 or 793-5645.