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The Significance of Website Accessibility

Improving web accessibility means designing and developing websites, tools, and technologies so that people with disabilities can use them without barriers.

There’s around 1 billion people worldwide who live with some form of disability, making it crucial for all organisations to ensure their websites are accessible – perhaps more so for organisations working for the betterment of society. By committing to web accessibility, organisations demonstrate their dedication to social inclusion, equity, and providing a positive user experience for all visitors.

I’m going to be absolutely up front here and say: we’re not perfect at this. To use a cliché: it’s a journey. And one that will be ongoing – we’re making a start and hope that you will too.

Legal Implications

And of course, In many countries, web accessibility is not just an ethical responsibility but also a legal requirement. In the US, for example, they enforce Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which require certain organisations, including non-profits, to make their digital content accessible. Similarly, the European Union’s Web Accessibility Directive mandates that public sector bodies, including some charities, follow accessibility guidelines. (It’s the sort of really useful legislation that Brexit is systematically undoing … )

Non-compliance can lead to legal ramifications, emphasising the need for charities and non-profit organisations to prioritise accessibility in their website design and development.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed a set of international guidelines called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to make the web more accessible. The guidelines are divided into three levels of conformance (A, AA, and AAA), with AA being the most common target for websites. By adhering to WCAG guidelines, charities and non-profit organisations can ensure their websites are accessible to users with various impairments, including visual, auditory, cognitive, or motor impairments.

Accessibility in wireframe design

Core Considerations and Decisions

When creating an accessible website several key considerations and decisions must be made. These include:

  • Inclusive Design and User Experience
    Inclusive design focuses on creating products and services that can be accessed, understood, and used by as many people as possible. For charity and non-profit websites, this means considering the diverse needs of users and making informed design decisions that cater to their requirements. Some examples of inclusive design principles include:

    1. Using clear, concise language and providing alternative text for images
    2. Ensuring text is readable by maintaining a good contrast ratio between text and background colours. (As a point in our own learning, this necessitated something of a re-brand!)
    3. Designing consistent and easy-to-use navigation structures
    4. Providing multiple ways for users to access information and services
  • Assistive Technologies
    Assistive technologies, such as screen readers, magnifiers, or speech input software, enable people with disabilities to access digital content. When developing a charity or non-profit website, it’s essential to ensure that it works seamlessly with these tools. This can be achieved by:

    1. Using semantic HTML elements to provide a clear structure to your content.
    2. Implementing ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) attributes to enhance the user experience for screen reader users (this was another new one on us – we’re working through this site to ensure that ARIA attributes are prevalent)
    3. Ensuring that all interactive elements, such as buttons and links, can be accessed using a keyboard – not just a mouse.
    4. Testing your website with various assistive technologies (such as screen readers) to identify and address potential issues.
  • Responsive Design and Cross-Browser Compatibility
    Considering the increasing variety of devices and browsers used to access the internet, it’s vital for charity and non-profit websites to be responsive and compatible across different platforms. Responsive design ensures that your website adapts to the screen size and orientation of the user’s device, providing a consistent and enjoyable experience regardless of how they access your content. Additionally, cross-browser compatibility ensures that your website functions and displays correctly in different web browsers. To achieve this, consider:

    1. Adopting a mobile-first design approach to prioritise the mobile user experience
    2. Implementing flexible layouts, images, and media that adapt to different screen sizes
    3. Testing your website on various devices and browsers to identify and fix compatibility issues
  • Education and Collaboration
    An accessible website is the result of a collaborative effort among various stakeholders, including designers, developers, content creators, and project managers. It’s crucial to ensure that everyone involved in the project is knowledgeable about accessibility principles and best practices. This can be achieved by:

    1. Providing accessibility training and resources to team members
    2. Fostering open communication and collaboration among stakeholders to address accessibility concerns
    3. Regularly reviewing and updating accessibility policies and practices to ensure ongoing compliance with evolving standards

Building an accessible website for charity and non-profit organisations is not only a moral and legal obligation, but it’s also a key factor in ensuring that these organisations can effectively reach, engage, and serve their target audiences. By considering the diverse needs of users and making informed decisions about inclusive design, assistive technologies, responsive design, and collaboration, charities and non-profits can create a more inclusive and user-friendly digital presence that promotes their mission and values.

By prioritising accessibility in your website design and development, you’re not only empowering individuals with disabilities but also contributing to a more inclusive and equitable digital world. Remember that accessibility is an ongoing process, and it’s important to continually evaluate and improve your website to meet the evolving needs of your audience.

Some notes

… I am not a leading expert on accessibility, so I wanted to point you in the direction of some people who could, legitimately, lay claim to such. The first is Laura Kalbag who literally wrote the book on the subject. Secondly, someone who’s upcoming course I’m very much looking forward to is Sara Soueidan. I recommend getting on the wait list for her web accessibility course if this is something you want to learn more about. I would also like to point you in the direction of this Access Guide. A tip top free resource.