A guest post by Ira Horowitz, Cornershop Creative
Have you been hearing a lot about website accessibility lately? Most website owners have. Accessibility has become a hot topic in networking groups, on social media, and in many offices. Chances are, it was one of those conversations that led you to read this article today.
So what is accessibility? It’s making sure your website can be seen by anyone, anywhere, on any device, regardless of physical or mental impairment. Impairments can include disabilities, distractions, bad lighting, full hands—anything that might keep you from fully enjoying a website.
Having an accessible website means more people can enjoy your website, which is awesome. You may also be interested to know that many of the things that make your website accessible also help with user experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO). You probably recognize those as the other big topics in the world of nonprofit websites.
In short, accessibility is good for everybody, including your nonprofit. Read on to learn three reasons why it matters so much when it comes to improving your organization’s fundraising results.
Reason #1: Having an accessible website empowers you to expand your community.
One of the most common questions asked by nonprofits is, “How can we get more supporters to come to our website?”
Accessibility is a great answer.
By making your website more accessible, you are opening your nonprofit up to a whole new audience. Once people of all abilities can access your content, they can learn everything they need to know about your cause, which makes them much more likely to participate in fundraisers of all kinds.
Having more active supporters means that more people will be sharing your content, or talking about your cause with their friends. This kind of self-perpetuating growth is the goal of every organization, whether you’re new to the sector or have been around for a while. Investing in accessibility upgrades for your website gets you off to an excellent start.
Reason #2: Nonprofits whose websites aren’t accessible may be subject to legal action.
In an equal society, everyone should have a chance to participate. This is the idea behind the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Since 1990, this law has helped prevent discrimination against people with disabilities by ensuring that public spaces are accessible to everyone.
Recently, the internet has been under scrutiny in courtrooms across the country, with plaintiffs asking the courts to consider the internet a public space.
Guidelines for this kind of widespread accessibility have already been developed. They are known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). There are three different levels for WCAG:
- A: This is considered the bare minimum for a website to meet. Many websites already meet this level, or could with minimal effort.
- AA: Most web users will be able to access your website at this level. Experts urge all websites to shoot for AA compliance.
- AAA: This is the highest level of accessibility and is ideal for the majority of users.
Since so many web elements cannot be made AAA compliant, it is not currently encouraged to try and make an entire website AAA. You can, however, have a mixed approach to be as accessible as possible. Offering fonts and high-contrast colors that meet AAA standards is still wonderful, even if other elements on your website only meet A or AA standards.
Right now, WCAG is a recommendation, not a mandatory requirement. But since having an accessible website has so many benefits, the best thing to do is get ahead of the curve now and invest in accessibility upgrades before they become law.
Reason #3: Prioritizing accessibility can help boost your brand image, drawing in support for your cause.
Nonprofits are known for being compassionate members of their communities. Becoming a champion for accessibility and equality is a good way to prove this impression true.
When you make a genuine effort to make your website more accessible, you are sending the message that your organization really cares about people and wants to do the right thing by making an effort to communicate with everyone it can reach. This will reflect positively on your brand, and ultimately, the cause you fight for every day.
Bonus: Quick Tips to Make Your Site More Accessible
Now that you’ve decided to make your website more accessible, here are some bonus tips to get you started!
Though there are plenty more things you can do, this list includes some nonprofit web design strategies that will help you meet the minimal requirements for accessibility:
- Enable keyboard controls so your audience can navigate without a mouse.
- Make sure your website is accessible for screen readers, and include a skip button for screen readers so they can skip through the menus.
- Use a heading hierarchy to break up the content and guide readers through your content. Start with a single heading 1 (H1), then use H2s to title sections, H3s for subheadings under H2, and so on.
- Use simple language. A 6th- to 8th-grade reading level is recommended.
- Include alt text for images and photos.
- Pay attention to color contrast. Minimum of 3:1 for large text, 4.5:1 for paragraph text. The higher the better.
- Keep forms simple, short, and navigable by the tab key.
- Use fonts that are easy to read, and don’t use more than three different fonts on your website.
- Set your paragraph text at 16 px or larger.
- Make sure 200% zoom is possible without interfering with the messaging of your site.
- Offer player controls instead of setting videos to autoplay.
- Include closed captions, transcripts, and audio descriptions for all multimedia content.
- Use more than one indicator for important elements like links. For example, links should be blue and underlined.
- Monitor the performance of your website to ensure it loads in three seconds or less.
- Check your website on several browsers and devices to make sure it looks good on all of them.
To take your efforts to the next level, consider working with a nonprofit web design consultant. According to Cornershop Creative, these professionals understand the nonprofit sphere and can help make your website the best it can be for everyone within your site’s reach. They can handle the more technical aspects of web accessibility, setting you up to welcome more visitors to your website!
With 15 years’ experience, Ira is an expert in nonprofit online communications and online fundraising. His work has resulted in increased funds and resounding supporter engagement for hundreds of organizations.
Ira oversees our project management team and works with clients to provide our clients with the best possible final product. He also manages all of our strategic engagements and helps guide nonprofits to determine their long-term strategy goals for online communications.