5 Accessible Public College Websites

As the role of technology in higher education increases, college and university websites are steadily becoming one of the most important factors of the college selection process. Similar to prospective students craving a warm welcome when visiting college campuses, they look for the same experience when visiting a university’s website.

Imagine trying to fill out an online form for more information on a college you are curious about and not being able to because the form fields aren’t labeled correctly—frustrating, right? If the website isn’t showing the college’s ability to support your education, how can you be sure the campus will? An inclusive and functional website sets a friendly tone for the larger university experience.

We dug into the top public colleges in the US to see which ones make the grade when it comes to accessibility. While all five websites impressed with strong heading structure, clearly labeled graphics and form fields, and descriptive link texts, each displayed strength in different areas:

1. University of Massachusetts-Lowell

 

Screenshot of University of Massachusetts-Lowell homepage

UML’s website features an excellent events calendar that includes a heading structure that delineates calendar entries, making it easier for site visitors to distinguish between a day’s different events.

 

2. Montclair State University

 

Screenshot of Montclair State University's homepage

Most notably, Montclair’s site features excellent heading structure. Today, internet users browse the internet at lightning pace, often skimming articles and scanning headlines. When heading structure is clear and concise, screen readers can then read headlines that offer more than arbitrary language, giving visually impaired users the ability to skip over the information they don’t need or want.

3. Auburn University

 

Screenshot of Auburn University's homepage

Auburn’s website greets you with large, striking images and graphics. While many websites might have left these unlabeled, thus excluding a sizeable chunk of internet users, all images include the appropriate alt text, giving those who are visually impaired access to the same experience as sighted users.

 

4. Oregon State University

Screenshot of Oregon State University's homepage

Oregon State University’s website’s forms are all correctly and clearly labeled. Remember the online form example we gave earlier? You wouldn’t have that issue here.

 

5. University of Hawaii at Manoa

Screenshot of University of Hawaii at Manoa's homepage

University of Hawaii at Manoa’s website includes descriptive link text, even for icons. Screen reader users often peruse websites going from link to link. With clearly defined link text, users know exactly where a link will take them.

Despite their varying strengths, each of the listed college websites feature their own accessibility policy that explains their commitment to maintaining an inclusive online presence.  As awareness of the importance of an inclusive internet continues to spread and college and university websites continue to improve the accessibility of their sites, we’ll likely need a much longer list.

 

Check out our web guide: How does accessibility impact your higher ed website?

 

More on how we determined the ranking:

To determine the listed college websites, we took the top 100 public institutions listed in U.S. News. For each institution we ran a scan on the top 1,000 pages and ranked the websites based off our DCI® accessibility sub-score. From this list we took the top 10 DCI scores and ran each by our Accessibility Consultant, Keith Bundy, who performed manual checks on each site and determined the five most accessible public college websites.