Why your nonprofit needs an accessible website and how to get started
What is website accessibility?
Website accessibility allows people with physical, sensory, learning, developmental, and learning disabilities to have equal access to information online as nondisabled users. Designers achieve accessibility through “present[ing] information through multiple sensory channels, such as sound and sight. They allow for additional means of site navigation and interactivity beyond the typical point-and-click interface.”
Furthermore, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) asserts that accessibility is not just about equal access. In fact, “accessibility overlaps with other best practices,” such as usability, search engine optimization (SEO), and responsive design. For example, strong color contrast benefits low-vision users, people using small mobile devices, and visitors in bright environments. Centering users with disabilities in web design creates a better experience for everyone.
Why Website Accessibility Matters for Nonprofits
Nonprofit leaders have to make tough decisions every day about how to best use their limited resources. Designing an accessible website is worth the small investment for every nonprofit. Research consistently shows that making a business website accessible yields numerous long-term benefits for revenue, branding, and market reach. In addition, hosting an inaccessible website poses legal risks that nonprofits cannot afford to tackle.
The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) argues that there is a strong business case for digital accessibility, explaining that “businesses that integrate accessibility are more likely to be innovative, inclusive enterprises that reach more people with positive brand messaging that meets emerging global legal requirements.”
An accessible website shows that your organization genuinely cares about visitors with disabilities and the user experience. An inclusive brand image benefits your organization’s reputation, donor loyalty, and recruitment of diverse employees.
The Impact of Accessibility
Inaccessible websites exclude a significant percentage of potential clients and donors. With one in four adults living with disabilities in the US and spending over $200B in discretionary funds annually, nonprofits must design accessible websites to maximize their reach. In addition, adults ages 61-75 (who are also more likely to have disabilities than younger generations) give the most to charity of any age group.
Accessibility has a measurable impact on website engagement. For instance, National Public Radio (NPR) added transcripts of their radio shows to their website in response to the 2011 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations. With this change, their search traffic increased by nearly 7%. Also, visitors reported an improved ability to search content, comprehension for English language learners, ease of language translation, and usability in noisy environments.
With the rising legal risks of websites not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the tangible benefits of universal access, ensuring that your website is accessible to all visitors makes financial sense. Protect your assets, strengthen your reputation, and maximize online donations by making your nonprofit website accessible.
Web Accessibility Resources to Get Started
Fortunately, the web is full of free, user-friendly resources to help webmasters of all experience levels optimize their site’s accessibility. These agencies establish best practices, such as including alt text on images and including in-sync captioning on videos. You can also find accessibility principles, coding instructions, and arguments for inclusive design.
Some of our favorite web accessibility resources include:
Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) at W3C
U.S. General Services Administration’s usability.gov
WebAIM at the Institute for Disability Research, Policy, and Practices
WAI’s Accessibility Fundamentals Resource Guide