Exploration of Texas Public University Education Web Pages Accessibility
Kohne, David Ira
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Background: In the past twenty years, the Internet has revolutionized daily lives by making varied types of information freely available. Because of this technological revolution, colleges and universities have been forced to rethink the information they provide on their websites for prospective and current students as well as alumni. However, many of these websites have accessibility and usability issues, especially for site visitors with disabilities. Universities that receive federal financial aid are required to make reasonable accommodations to provide accessible content on the web, and non-compliance can result in barriers for people with disabilities and investigations by the Office of Civil Rights. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore accessibility of web pages of colleges of education and teacher education programs of public universities in the state of Texas as determined by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Methods: The sample consisted of 26 public universities in Texas who had a college of education and a teacher education program and whose enrollment ranked in the top 70%, based on the number of candidates who completed teacher education program requirements in 2017. During the fall of 2019, the researcher evaluated representative pages from the college of education and teacher education programs at each selected university for a total of 52 web pages. Data was collected using the automated web accessibility and readability evaluation tools SortSite and Readable. The data included WCAG 2.0 recommended accessibility guideline success criteria and reading levels for each page. Data were analyzed using SPSS to describe the web accessibility using multiple guideline variables. Results: The web pages of colleges of education and teacher education programs of public universities contained accessibility errors. Guideline 2.3, designing pages in a manner that does not induce seizures, passed on all of the pages scanned. Guideline 4.1, maximizing compatibility with user agents such as assistive technology, failed the most scans (88% of the pages). Low passing scores were also present on two WCAG 2.0 guidelines, resulting in web page content that may present perception and operability barriers to learners. Paired samples t tests suggested that the college of education and teacher education web pages did not differ significantly in pass rates for each of the 12 WCAG 2.0 success criteria. Readability indicators, both Flesch Kincaid Grade Level and rating, showed no significant difference between teacher education pages and college of education pages. Conclusion: Overall, the college of education and teacher education web pages have similar accessibility levels. One guideline consistently failed, resulting in pages that are not robust, or accessible by user agents and assistive technologies. Learners using assistive technology, different browsers and mobile devices may not be able to understand, view or use the web pages. Findings from this study provide information that university personnel can use to improve the web experience for individuals that visit their sites and address web page non-compliance issues causing learning information access barriers for students.