There are guidelines governing web accessibility for nonprofits that you need to consider when building your websites. While this helps you serve more people, including people with disabilities, it also increases your societal impact and helps you do good.
But before we talk about its importance to your nonprofit, let’s look at what web accessibility means.
Accessibility generally involves building systems that are easy to use by anyone no matter their condition. It applies to a lot of things, including buildings, devices, and cities. This has to do with designing buildings, devices or cities that are easy to use by anyone, including the physically challenged or visual, hearing, and speech impaired.
But this doesn’t rest on physical things. Your nonprofit website is one that should meet all accessibility standards. And in the digital world, accessibility goes beyond making platforms accessible to the disabled. It also involves making digital platforms available to people with small devices, slow internet connections or people who speak different language from yours but may benefit from your nonprofit.
Legal guidelines on web accessibility
Globally, there are international standards that govern how web accessibility works. The most comprehensive and explicit one is developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Instituted by the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is set to ensure that web content more accessible primarily for people with disabilities, but also for all users. The Department of Global Communications of the United Nations also helps promote web accessibility within the UN system.
Beyond international legal settings, many countries have laws that compel digital platforms to inculcate web accessibility when building websites, especially for nonprofits. For instance, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in the US, the EN 301 549 in the European Union, Accessibilita in Italy, Law N° 2005-102 Article 47 in France, and the Accessibility Regulations 2019 in the UK all talk about accessibility for ICT and web services. For nonprofits looking to include country-specific web accessibility measures in their projects, the W3C has a list of all the Web Accessibility Laws and Policies by country.
Importance of web accessibility for nonprofit websites
Making your website accessible comes with many benefits. This is not just for your organization, but also for the society you’re impacting. Let’s look at these benefits.
1.Equal access to information
Information is one of the most important resources of the digital age. It enables individuals and institutions to go about their activities, acquire knowledge, and impact society. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) defines access to communication technologies and information, including the web as basic human rights.
Adhering to web accessibility for nonprofit guidelines enables equal access to the needed information by all manner of persons. Also, your organization will be championing social inclusion by providing access to not just the disabled, but also for people accessing your information on small devices, people in rural communities, those with poor internet, as well as old people.
2.Improved engagement and impact
Nonprofits’ main goal is to bring people together for the good of society. This goal has become a lot easier in the digital age. Unfortunately, not everybody is part of the system that is somehow normalized. Data from a Pew Research shows that about 12% or 40 million Americans have some form of disability. Also, around 15% of the world’s population have some form of disability.
This means that the “normal” website isn’t actually normal since it’s not accessible by a lot of people. Thus, inculcating web accessibility for nonprofit guidelines into your digital plans will help drive more engagement. You’re sure to get more donors and volunteers involved. Your organization will also be able to broaden its impact to include people that were initially not counted.
3.Advances a healthy digital presence for your nonprofit website
When you adhere to web accessibility for nonprofit guidelines, your website benefits a lot from the digital world. Most of what makes up the accessibility guidelines also helps search engines to value your content. Therefore, while you’re adjusting your nonprofit website to make it accessible, you will also be following search engine optimization, user experience, design, and image optimization guidelines, which are metrics used by search engines to rank websites.
4.Helps you meet the greater good
Beyond reaching more volunteers or donors, web accessibility helps your nonprofit do good. Thus, it feels good to know your web presence is available to people of all kinds without any form of discrimination. In general, it helps make society a better place and makes your nonprofit part of that success.
How to get started with web accessibility
Implementing web accessibility for your nonprofit website shouldn’t be a tedious process. Here are some of the practices to get your organization started.
1.Make use of image “captions”
While images, tables, and graphs add clarity to content in general, not everybody sees it when on your website. As a nonprofit, adding descriptions to your graphs and images helps some visually impaired visitors to understand your content better. Also, make sure to describe videos, charts, or any other visual element that you put on your side.
2.Provide content in different formats
Different people understand content in different formats. To meet the needs of these people, your nonprofit website content should be a mixture. You need to deliver your content in text, with options for text-to-speech, as well as video content. This helps serve your visitors who are visually impaired, old, or have hearing issues.
3.Provide keyboard navigation
Not everybody can use a mouse when navigating a site due to different reasons. Providing keyboard navigation is a great accessibility feature that will help many of your site visitors. Make sure your site is navigable with only keyword keys. And also desist from animating your navigation buttons.
4.Make use of the ARIA Tag
ARIA stands for Accessible Rich Internet Applications. It is a set of HTML attributes that lays out how web applications and content should be accessible to people with disabilities. Among other things, AIRA enables the creation of disability-friendly widgets, error messages, forms, alerts, and updates among others. This is a technical aspect that you may need the help of a web developer to help implement.
What next in web accessibility for nonprofits?
While your website may look good and load fast, not everyone that visits sees the content in the same way. With web accessibility, you can make your site available to anyone anywhere under any circumstances.