SVSU launches multiple new websites
BENNINGTON -- The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union plans to launch 11 new websites Monday, one for each of its schools, along with one for the supervisory union, for athletics and for early education.
The change is to make the websites compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Katie West, public information coordinator for the SVSU.
The main ADA-related change is that the websites will be compatible with screen readers, which are used by individuals with vision problems, West said, adding that this is not a change that impacts user experience.
"It's things that you're not going to pick up on if you're just looking at the site," she said.
Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer or Braille display, according to the American Foundation for the Blind.
Other ADA-related changes include how PDFs are saved, West said. The SVSU is going to be working on making old PDFs that are already online compliant, but all new documents posted will be correct "right away," West said.
Another change relates to the color of text versus color of the website background, West said.
"Either dark on a very light background, or light on a very dark background," she said.
The SVSU must also take "a couple precautions" with tables posted online, to make sure screen readers can follow them correctly, she said.
The color and table-related changes have already been completed, she said.
"The PDFs — we've done as many as we can," she said. "... There are hundreds buried on the site, and we will get to them."
The websites will also now be hosted through a company that specializes in school sites, Edlio.
Previously, the SVSU's websites, except for athletics, were Google sites, West said. The athletics website was previously maintained by an outside provider.
Visually, the sites will look "a little different," she said.
On the SVSU website and the athletics website, there will be a recent news section, for example.
But those logging on the new websites will find all the same information they usually would, displayed in pretty much the same way, West said.
"We tried to keep things in the same path as they were before, so people aren't going to have to click around," she said. "I think it's a little bit easier to navigate, especially our board documents."
Currently, finding board documents online is "a little bit of a puzzle," she said.
The goal with the change is to make communicating with the community easier, especially those who need visual aids, she said.
"I want to make sure that this change is not a surprise for people," West said.
Domain name changes
The domain names for the websites — besides svsu.org — are also changing slightly, and will be a bit easier to remember, she said.
West said she's also "very excited" that the SVSU will now have more control over the athletics site.
"Not that there was any problem with the provider we had ... [this just] makes it a little quicker to update, all around," she said.
West said the new website effort began with her predecessor, and she has been working on the project since starting as public information coordinator.
Along with West, Frank Barnes, director of technology at the SVSU, and Elaine Hulett, technology services coordinator at the SVSU, were involved in the changeover, West said.
Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.
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