By now you’re probably aware of the importance of an optimized website. Search engine optimization (SEO) helps users find your organization organically. User experience allows visitors to effectively seek out information and move through the funnel.
But what about web accessibility?
Although commonly overlooked, web accessibility is critical for those with disabilities.
Your brick-and-mortar building wouldn’t fail to have a wheelchair ramp or accessible bathroom. In the digital age, web accessibility has become the equivalent of this.
In this blog, we’re going to discuss the importance of web accessibility, the impacts of failing to meet accessibility standards and how your organization can begin making improvements.
The importance of equitable access
Online activity has skyrocketed in the last few years. More and more people rely on the internet as a means for information, and more and more nonprofits use their websites to share tools to help those in need.
At the same time, 61 million adults in the U.S. live with a disability. Approximately 3.2 million people have vision impairment.
As we strive to make the world a more inclusive place, equitable access to websites has become more important than ever – especially for nonprofits.
Human service organizations, like food banks and rescue missions, were created to help people in need. If your website isn’t built to accommodate things like screen readers and other tools for those with disabilities, you’ve created a barrier between yourself and those you’re trying to help.
Standards for accessibility
Not having an accessible website will stand between you and your mission. But it can also have legal implications. Every day, new internet regulations are popping up, and this is one of them.
The W3C is the governing body over the internet. They founded the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to create standards and guidelines for web accessibility. As these standards continue to evolve and update, web accessibility becomes even more critical.
If you fail to meet these standards, your organization can face thousands of dollars in fines. In addition, as nonprofits committed to helping those in need, you could also face public backlash.
And it doesn’t stop there. Our friends over at Google have been leading the way in setting best practices for online activity. In order for a website to rank well, Google factors in things like security, page speed, mobile optimization, user experience and more. Our prediction is that accessibility will become a big player in this list.
Unfortunately, most nonprofits in the U.S. currently do not have accessible websites. But don’t let this send you into a panic. The internet needs to improve overall, it’s not just nonprofits who need to do the work.
Where to begin
There are plenty of ways you can update your current website to begin making strides toward accessibility and inclusivity:
Start with education. It’s hard to make improvements when you don’t know what the standards are. Start educating yourselves on web content and accessibility guidelines so that you can begin to assess where you stand now and the work that needs to be done to improve.
Determine capacity. One of the biggest barriers that will likely stand in your way is in-house capacity. Nonprofits are stretched thin, and you may not have the resources available within your organization to dedicate the time to updating and maintaining these standards.
Find the right agency partner. There are many plug-ins available out there that will claim to help fix your web accessibility issues. The reality is, like SEO, web accessibility requires ongoing maintenance and a trained eye. Finding the right agency partner to help take the stress and work off your hands is a better and more effective option in the long run.
Make SEO optimizations. Speaking of SEO, there’s a lot of overlap between it and accessibility. When you start making SEO improvements, you become a little more accessible. However, it’s important to remember that they’re not one for one.
Document improvements. Sometimes problems pop up. If you’re facing fines or legal implications, it’s important to have the work you’re doing to make improvements documented.
At the end of the day, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to addressing web accessibility. The best course of action is to begin making improvements and creating a process and policy for future compliance.
If you have any questions about accessibility or would like an audit of your website, please reach out to our team of experts!
Note: The above content is informative in nature and is not intended as legal advice. As a company that provides professional fundraising consulting services, we retain counsel to ensure compliance with fundraising laws in each applicable state. Questions related to the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative for U.S.-based nonprofits should be directed to counsel that is competent to address such matters.
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