Guest post from my pals at DNL OmniMedia!
In modern times, nonprofit websites are one of the most powerful tools for educating supporters about a cause and rallying support to further it. It’s essential that this platform performs as optimally as possible.
You should be intentional when choosing the software you build your organization’s online presence on, whether your CMS or your online giving solution. Similarly, you should be equally intentional with how you use that technology.
Today, we’re going to explore that intentionality in the terms of web accessibility— something that’s becoming crucial for organizations to be aware of. Nonprofit web accessibility refers to making sure your web presence is accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities.
At DNL OmniMedia, we’ve done our research on building effective nonprofit digital strategies. That means we’ve put a considerable amount of time into improving nonprofit web accessibility. In this guide, we’ll explore the basics of nonprofit websites and ADA compliance through the following points:
- The Basics of Nonprofit Web Accessibility
- What are the key elements of an accessible website?
- How do you avoid accessibility mistakes?
The Basics of Nonprofit Web Accessibility
Nonprofit web accessibility is ensuring your organization’s web presence is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
All organizations that have 15 or more employees or provide public accommodations are required to abide by ADA regulations. Public accommodations refer to services or facilities open to the public— a classification that has recently begun to be applied to websites. Many nonprofits fit these parameters and therefore need to be ADA compliant.
Why should web accessibility matter to your organization?
While the handling of websites as public accommodations has historically been somewhat vague, a precedent has been set in recent years. That means that if your organization is ever charged with violating the ADA on your website, you could be held accountable against those standards and required to bring your site up to code.
However, there are several important benefits that come with having an ADA compliant web presence. These benefits might be enough on their own to propel your decision to attain accessibility:
- Your website will demonstrate to your users that your organization holds inclusivity as a core value.
- The ADA guidelines all focus on making web pages easier to use for anyone wanting to use them. It naturally follows that with accessibility comes a more positive user experience across the board.
- An accessible website enables search engines to read and understand your content easily. This may improve your search engine rankings in the long run.
Luckily for your organization, many nonprofit websites may already be partially ADA compliant. However, regardless of your website’s current standing, reaching full compliance is achievable when you keep the key elements in mind.
What are the main elements of an accessible website?
The ADA uses the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to define what is considered accessible. These guidelines have outlined four key characteristics for what makes a website accessible for all users, regardless of ability:
- Perceivable. People should be able to perceive the content on your website easily, regardless of users’ visual abilities.
- Operable. The structure of your website should be easily navigable from any access device, whether a mouse, a trackpad, or a keyboard.
- Understandable. The content on your website should have an intuitive structure, which can be helpful for users utilizing text speech devices.
- Robust. The back-end code of your website should be clearly structured so browsers and assistive devices can easily decipher it.
It’s essential that these elements are carried through each page of your website, from your About Us page to your donation page. See section seven in the Donately guide for common ways you can optimize your donation pages. Now, let’s dive into the specifics by examining common accessibility mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.
How do you avoid common accessibility mistakes?
As mentioned earlier, there’s a chance your organization’s website is partially ADA compliant. However, there is also a chance that your website has a few common accessibility mistakes.
If you make any major changes to your website (like if your nonprofit fundraising strategy requires increased web functionality) or you hire an outside consultant to do so, make sure you’re not making these common errors:
- Visual design confusion. Visually flash-heavy animations can pose an actual risk to some users and low contrast color palettes can make it difficult for visually impaired users.
- Disorganized text structures. Heading text order should clearly define an outline of the page’s content. Using heading level four before using the heading level two in the page will present confusing text structure and prevent users who use the keyboard from effectively navigating the page.
- Lack of alternative text. If you fail to provide text alternatives for visual or audio media on your page, hearing or visually impaired users will miss out on entire sections of your content.
- Inefficient navigation. Without a clearly labeled and easily accessible navigation menu, users won’t be able to access your content regardless of their efforts.
- Missing form elements. If you’re collecting donation information via a form on your website, failing to include all key elements such as labels can make it difficult for users to fill out the forms. This can result in loss of revenue.
You may be looking at these common errors and feeling overwhelmed not knowing if your site has these issues or how to fix them. Luckily, there are steps you can take to discover and fix accessibility issues.
Testing for Accessibility
To test your website for accessibility, simply run an audit of all of your pages from your homepage to your contact page. There are a few automated tools that can audit your pages and help you identify accessibility issues present on your site:
- The WWWC’s HTML Validation Tool. This tool checks the validity of your site’s HTML to ensure that all parts of your site are present in the order that can be read by all web browsers.
- The WAVE browser extension.This browser extension focuses on reviewing your website’s color palette, content structure, form labels and navigation. It visually identifies each element that does not meet accessibility standards and provides references on how to solve those problems.
- Lighthouse audit tool in Google Chrome.This is an alternative accessibility audit tool which reviews accessibility, best-practices, and performance of web pages. It offers a grade for each area it reviews and suggestions on how to fix detected issues.
Once you’ve discovered where your accessibility errors lie, consider how you’re going to fix them. See Team DNL’s nonprofit website design guide, which answers common questions that arise during web design projects. Then, continue to the next section to learn how you can improve your site’s accessibility.
Once you’ve identified accessibility issues with your website, it’s time to tackle them head-on. However, unless your organization has a web developer in its midst— this might be a bit more difficult to tackle without any outside assistance. There are a few smaller updates you may be able to handle on your own, such as:
- Decluttering the visual elements on your pages, streamlining design and reducing the risk of inaccessibility.
- Adding or correcting the textual tags on your pages, such as adding H1/H2/H3 heading tags and ensuring they appear in a logical order.
- Ensuring each visual element has a text alternative, especially videos.
- Including clear navigation buttons across the top, or potentially the side, of your website.
These are just a few of the changes your organization can likely make without outside help. Completing more technical updates such as adjusting color contrast, text size, hiding moving elements, and making the site navigable with a keyboard may be easier with a consultant’s help.
From there, ensure that future additions and projects are planned with accessibility in mind. Your organization may already take precautions to ensure tech project success, and that same idea should be applied to accessibility.
Nonprofit web accessibility may feel overwhelming at first glance, but it really is a worthwhile investment of your organization’s time to make sure you’re fully compliant. Use the basics in this guide to begin your research! Learn more about DNL OmniMedia.
What has your nonprofit done to improve accessibility and ADA compliance? Fill us in – pop a note in the comments below!