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Campus Suite Blog

School communication tips, trends and news

Language Accessibility: Another Critical Part of Total School Website Accessibility

Posted by Jay Cooper
Apr 18, 2019 7:40:26 AM

I recently read an article in a professional journal and was impressed with a key term that resonates quite loud with me and the Campus Suite product development team. That word: Accessible. It  was paired with another that underscores the glaring need many schools are faced with: the need to make their school information “language” accessible.

The rapidly growing number of non-English speaking parents of ESL, ELL and LEP students requires that schools accommodate them to give them even a chance to engage with the school district. In a nutshell, schools need to take steps to be language accessible.


Schools are turning to language translation services to help them improve parent engagement with non-English speaking parents, adding to the list of ways to make school websites fully accessible in every sense of the word. 


 

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Great word, accessible. It’s been the mantra at Campus Suite for some time. We began chanting, really, since our inception, placing a premium on solid school website design that strikes that beautiful balance of great looks on one hand, and useful, intuitive navigation on the other. (And when I say “intuitive” that means for both website visitors and the school communicators who manage their website.) School website design has to be accessible.

Accessible design... Ommmm.

The next accessible frontier is what I would refer to as the ‘mobilization’ of websites – and, for the sake of probably why you’re reading this article in the first place – school websites. Schools lagged behind commercial enterprises that realized people are accessing their website via mobile devices. (Flashback to the endless scrolling, zooming, pinching and otherwise safari-like adventuring through a jungle of links.)

It’s unfathomable to imagine not being able to access web content via your phone or tablet.

Accessible via mobile devices...Ommmm.

Then there’s WebAIM, a pioneer non-profit organization advocating to eliminate the many barriers to website access for people with disabilities. Maybe you’re one of the approximately 10% of the U.S. population – according to Jared Smith at WebAIM – with one or more disabilities that make accessing the internet difficult. Remember too that disabilities take many forms: cognitive, sight, hearing and other physical ones.

Government agencies were first to make their websites accessible; (some) businesses followed suit; and now, thanks to disability advocates and places like the School Website Accessibility Education Center, schools are taking great strides to make their websites accessible and ADA-compliant.

Accessible for those with disabilities....Ommmm.

Well, that brings me to the language article, which was published in The ATA Chronicle, the official publication of the American Translators Association. Co-authored by Natalie Abarca and Katharine Allen, licensed interpreters on a mission to elevate and accelerate translation and interpreting in education, the article stresses the glaring need for a strategic approach to translation and interpreting services for schools.

Students whose native language is something other than English have a hard enough time as it is hurdling the language barriers that distance them from engaging schooling to the fullest. Now imagine how detached parents of these students are if they cannot communicate in the only language they know.

Abarca and Allen are focusing on trying to bring the same level of professionalism to translation in education that has occurred in the legal and health care fields. I found their insightful article, Educational Interpreting 101: It’s a Lot Harder than It Looks, to be a battle cry for school administrators, and especially school communicators charged with sparking change.

Language translation services promote school accessibility

Campus Suite, in a move to help districts make their school information “language” accessible, is adding language translation to its roster of critical web communications services. When non-English speaking parents go to your school website, they should be able to easily find – at the very least – critical school information.

This expansion of services fits with our own product design and development mantra to make school websites as accessible as possible – for everyone. You’ll be hearing more about it. It’s what we’re doing – once again – for the sake of accessibility, in the narrowest and broadest sense of the word.

Accessibility for the non-English school community...Ommmm.

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Posted by Jay Cooper

Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at jay@campussuite.com or follow him @jay4schools.

Topics: Website design Translation

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This blog and other Campus Suite Academy resources are part of our commitment to professional development for school communicators. Please join our forum for sharing the latest technology and communication trends to help schools better engage and improve education outcomes.

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