An accessible website is a requirement in the 21st century. By following web accessibility guidelines, you can ensure your nonprofit website is usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities.

This blog post will explore the importance of web accessibility for nonprofits and provide you with a roadmap for making your website accessible. We’ll discuss the benefits of accessibility, common accessibility barriers, and key guidelines to follow.

By the end of this post, you’ll have the tools and knowledge you need to create a website that is inclusive and welcoming to all.

Understanding Web Accessibility

Web accessibility refers to the design and development of websites that are usable by people with disabilities. This includes people who are blind, deaf, have low vision, learning disabilities, cognitive disabilities, and mobility impairments.

An accessible website ensures everyone has a positive experience regardless of their abilities.

Web Accessibility is Crucial for Nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations rely on their websites to connect with a broad audience, raise awareness for their causes, and deliver important information about the services they provide. An inaccessible website can unintentionally create a barrier for people with disabilities, preventing them from engaging with your organization and benefiting from your mission.

Here’s how web accessibility can specifically impact nonprofits:

  • Expands Your Reach: By making your website accessible, you open your doors to a wider audience, including the over 1 billion people worldwide who live with a disability.
  • Strengthens Your Community: A website that is usable by everyone fosters a more inclusive and welcoming online community for your organization.
  • Enhances Your Reputation: Following accessibility best practices demonstrates your commitment to social responsibility and inclusivity, which can strengthen your reputation with donors and supporters.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

In many countries, laws and regulations mandate that websites be accessible to people with disabilities. For instance, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation, and courts have ruled that websites can be considered places of public accommodation. Following accessibility guidelines helps ensure your nonprofit is operating legally.

Beyond legal requirements, there’s a strong ethical argument for web accessibility.  Everyone deserves equal access to information and resources online, and nonprofits have a responsibility to be inclusive in their digital outreach.

Key Web Accessibility Guidelines

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)  are international standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure web content is accessible to everyone.  These guidelines provide a structured framework for creating websites that are usable by people with disabilities.

The Four Pillars of Accessibility: POUR

WCAG is built on four core principles, often referred to as POUR:

1. Perceivable

Information and user interface components must be presented in a way that can be perceived by users. This includes providing alternatives for non-text content (like images) through captions and audio descriptions, ensuring sufficient color contrast for visual clarity, and using clear and concise language.

For example: An image on your donation page has a descriptive caption explaining the content of the image for visually impaired users.

2. Operable

User interface components and navigation must be operable. This means the website can be used by people with different motor abilities, using assistive technologies like screen readers and keyboard navigation. For example, all interactive elements should be keyboard accessible, and enough time should be allowed for users to read and interact with content.

For example: A user with limited mobility can navigate your website’s menus and forms using only their keyboard.

3. Understandable

Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable. This involves using clear and plain language, providing clear instructions, and organizing content in a logical and predictable way.

For example: Complex legal documents are provided in a simplified format along with an easy-to-understand glossary.

4. Robust

Content must be robust enough to be compatible with a wide range of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means using valid code and avoiding technologies that are not accessible to people with disabilities.

For example: Your website displays correctly and functions as intended on different assistive technologies, such as screen readers and screen magnifiers.

Following these core principles and WCAG guidelines will help you create a website that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone.

Check out WCAG’s quick reference on how to meet web accessibility guidelines.

Steps to Improve Web Accessibility

Now that you understand the importance of web accessibility and the POUR principles, let’s dive into practical steps you can take to improve your nonprofit website’s accessibility:

Conduct an Accessibility Audit

The first step is to assess your current website’s accessibility. Several free and paid online tools can help you identify potential barriers. Additionally, consider involving people with disabilities in the testing process for a more comprehensive evaluation.

Embrace Accessible Web Design Practices:

  • Color Contrast: Ensure there is sufficient contrast between text and background colors for people with low vision. Tools like online contrast checkers can help you achieve this.
  • Text Alternatives for Images: Provide clear and concise descriptions (alt text) for all non-text content, including images, charts, and infographics.

Prioritize Keyboard Navigation and Screen Reader Compatibility:

  • Keyboard Accessibility: All interactive elements on your website, like buttons and menus, should be fully functional using just the keyboard. This ensures users who rely on assistive technologies can navigate your site effectively.
  • Screen Reader Compatibility: Your website’s code and structure should be compatible with screen readers, which are software programs that convert text on the screen into speech for visually impaired users.

Captions and Transcripts for Multimedia:

  • Captions and Transcripts: Provide captions for videos and transcripts for audio content. This allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing to access the information presented.
  • Audio Descriptions: Consider adding audio descriptions for complex images or visuals to provide context for visually impaired users.

Accessible Forms and Error Messages:

  • Accessible Form Elements: Design forms that are compatible with assistive technologies and allow users with motor impairments to easily interact with them.
  • Error Messages: Error messages on forms should be specific and actionable, guiding users towards correcting their mistakes.
  • Clear Labels and Instructions: Form fields should have clear and concise labels, and provide clear instructions on how to fill them out.

By implementing these steps, you can significantly improve your website’s accessibility and ensure everyone can access your organization’s critical information and resources. Remember, accessibility is an ongoing process, so commit to regularly evaluating and improving your website as your content and technology evolve.

Tools and Resources for Web Accessibility

Making your website accessible doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. There are numerous tools and resources available to help you on your journey:

Accessibility Evaluation Tools

  • WAVE: This free online tool from WebAIM allows you to quickly check your website for accessibility issues. It provides a visual analysis of your webpage, highlighting areas that may need improvement.
  • Axe: A browser extension developed by Deque, Axe offers real-time feedback on accessibility as you develop and design your website. It integrates with popular design tools and provides detailed information on potential accessibility violations.
  • Lighthouse: This built-in tool within Google Chrome Developer Tools audits your web pages for performance, best practices, and accessibility. It offers clear reports and actionable steps to address accessibility issues.

Learning and Training Resources:

  • Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI): The WAI, a part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is a treasure trove of information on web accessibility. They offer extensive resources, including tutorials, best practices documents, and WCAG guidelines in various languages.
  • WebAIM: WebAIM is a nonprofit organization dedicated to web accessibility education and research. Their website provides a wealth of resources, including articles, webinars, and courses on various accessibility topics.
  • National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM): NCAM offers a variety of resources and training materials specifically focused on making multimedia content accessible.

Remember, creating an accessible website is an ongoing process. These tools and resources will empower you to continuously improve your website and ensure everyone has a positive experience interacting with your nonprofit online.

Conclusion: Building an Inclusive Online Presence for Your Nonprofit

In today’s digital age, web accessibility is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity for any nonprofit organization. By creating an accessible website, you open your doors to a wider audience, strengthen your community, and demonstrate your commitment to inclusivity.

Making your website accessible doesn’t have to be complicated. The steps and resources outlined in this blog post will equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to get started. Take action today!

Spread the Word!

Share this blog post with your network and colleagues in the nonprofit sector. Let’s work together to create a more inclusive online environment for everyone.

For Nonprofits in the Bay Area:

Contact D-Kode Technology, a leading digital marketing and web development company based in the Bay Area. D-Kode offers expert website accessibility services to help your nonprofit organization reach a wider audience and achieve its mission. We can help you audit your website, develop an accessibility roadmap, and implement best practices to ensure your website is inclusive and welcoming to all.