Accessibility is a team effort. The program software you choose for your volunteers and donors should be designed in a way that everyone can use equally, regardless of their different abilities.
If software and technology are created and developed in such a way that people with different abilities can use them, you won’t be at risk of missing out on contributions from an important demographic in your volunteer or donor pool.
Whether you are new to the term accessibility or quite seasoned in your understanding, let this article either be a resource to introducing you to it or increasing your know-how with tips you can action immediately for an improved user experience.
What is Accessibility?
Accessibility is a broad term. It’s about making everything accessible to those who are differently abled.
Examples of accessibility include:
- Ramps or elevators where there is a staircase
- Buttons to open doors
- Larger bathroom stalls or lower toilets
- Audible pedestrian crossing signals
- …and more
For the purposes of this article, we will focus on web accessibility, which is the ability of people to accomplish online tasks on a digital device as easily and with the same amount of time and effort as someone who is differently abled.
This empowers people and promotes self-sufficiency while minimizing user frustration to complete a task.
Who Benefits from Accessibility?
Digital accessibility predominantly aids those who are differently abled with visual, auditory, motor, cognitive or physical challenges.
However, it also helps others in scenarios such as:
- those who navigate your website and content on different devices (smartphones, tablets, and other small screens)
- those who have a slow or unreliable internet connection (such as those in a remote area or developing country)
- those who require closed captioning on videos where audio is not permitted (such as the library or a public space)
When you and your organization select software solutions and create content for your volunteer and donor programs that are designed with accessibility in mind, you will have satisfied and more engaged volunteers and donors.
For example, choosing program software that works with a screen reader, to help read the content on screen, for those users accessing their volunteer or donor portal in your programs with a visual impairment.
5 Tips for Improving the Accessibility of Your Content
In the quest to improve the accessibility of your content, here are five tips to get you started:
Ensure a high contrast between your background and text colors within your program software and content. Choosing colors with low contrast makes it difficult to navigate, read, and interact. This applies not only to text and images, but links, icons, and buttons too. To test the contrast ratio of two colors, use a Contrast Checker tool. Remember that good colors and contrast makes it easier to navigate websites and apps.
Also known as alt tags or alt attributes, this refers to using text to describe an image, animation, and other non-text content. An alt tag will be read by screen readers when they come across a picture, such as “the dog is jumping up to catch a Frisbee.” This will help your visitors who are visually impaired follow the content and appreciate your images. Include descriptive alt tags on all images and all types of multimedia. As a bonus, should an image not load properly, the alt tag will be displayed in most browsers. To learn more, visit WebAim's Alternative Text page.
Descriptive Text Link
When including a link to another page or document, avoid hyperlinking words like “this link” and “click here.” The purpose of the text is to describe where the link is going. For example, instead of a link having this message: “More information about the volunteer role can be found here,” consider rephrasing as, “To find out more, visit the volunteer opportunities page.” For someone navigating a site with a screen reader, understanding where the link is going is more helpful and differentiates it from the rest of the text. As a result, a decision can be made whether to follow that link or not.
Proper Heading Tags
Using heading tags can help you organize your content to differentiate between main headings (visibly seen as the largest sized heading) versus subheadings (smaller sized headings).Headings have levels that should be used in a particular order.
Here is an example of proper header structure for a news website.
<h1> News Homepage </h1>
<h2> Sports Topic </h2>
<h3> Sports Headline 1 </h3>
<h3> Sports Headline 2 </h3>
<h3> Sports Headline 3 </h3>
<h2> Entertainment Topic </h2>
<h3> Entertainment Headline 1 </h3>
<h3> Entertainment Headline 2 </h3>
<h3> Entertainment Headline 3 </h3>
You should start with a single <h1> tag, with any subsequent headings that follow as <h2>, then <h3> and so on. An <h3> tag should not be nested directly below an <h1> or at the top layer of the page, as this will be confusing to screen readers and other adaptive technologies that are trying to help the user navigate the page. To see more examples on how to best use headings, visit the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Headings Tutorial page.
Avoid setting colors and font sizes directly in the markup when possible
Markup is the code of the page, which includes any custom content you may input. An example could be a description of a volunteer role, organization mission statement or donor campaign that you enter into a software solution. Although you may be able to set the colors and font sizes of this customized content, it’s recommended that you avoid changing it to not affect the accessibility of your content. Use a style sheet to set the styles and keep content as close to defaults as possible. This allows for assistive technologies to adapt the content more easily to the users’ needs. This can include custom style sheets that improve contrast, make font sizes larger or use of a custom font to improve readability.
5 Reasons Why Accessibility Should Matter to You and Your Organization
This is an important section that you won’t want to miss. Let’s explore some key reasons.
Laws and Regulations
In many countries, it’s law!
Make sure you are up-to date with your region’s laws and regulations. A little research to locate and identify resources for your region will go a long way in avoiding unwanted legal repercussions that can not only hurt your budgets but also your reputation.
Refer to the Web Accessibility Laws & Policies page as found on W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) website, as a good start.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Using program software that’s designed to be accessible, combined with making accessible content, means you are doing your part to promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within your volunteer and donor programs.
Your programs can attract and retain more volunteers and donors with diverse capabilities, skill sets and resources simply because your organization makes a choice to prioritize accessibility.
It’s a win-win-win for your program participants, your organization, and the community you mutually serve!
Enhance the User Experience
User experience (UX) is a process by which design choices can give people meaningful and relevant experiences. You have a shared responsibility in providing your volunteers and donors with a good UX by keeping your content, within your chosen software, accessible.
Successful design choices, such as layout and colors, can minimize user frustration and thus result in a better user experience to engage with your program and content. For individuals with visual impairments, for example, complex layouts make discovering information difficult or nearly impossible. These are also challenging for those with cognitive and learning challenges, who require consistency and clarity in what they see. Designing clear titles, headings, navigation bars and having a consistent style is very important.
We recommend referring to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG)to create an accessible user experience. As noted on their website “it covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities.” WCAG provides “a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.”
Keep your end-user in mind. Ask your volunteers and donors for feedback and listen to their insights related to the content you create and the program software with which you are asking them to engage. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again!
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of search engine traffic to a website. So how do accessibility best practices increase your search engine algorithms? Here are some examples:
- If a website is designed to be accessible, it will be easier to navigate. Therefore, your bounce rate (the number of visitors who leave your website) will improve.
- Providing descriptive text for images and infographics, will help search engines index a website's content better.
- For video content, the best thing to do is to provide transcripts and closed captions, as Google and other search-engines are primarily text-based.
If done right, most of our “Tips for improving the accessibility of your content” in the above section, will improve your SEO.
Committing to accessible software and content can differentiate your volunteer and donor programs from others.
When your volunteers and donors are having great experiences with your software and content, they are more likely to tell their family, friends, acquaintances, and social media connections. This can only further enhance their connection to your organization by sharing positive reflections publicly.
In short, accessibility is the right thing to do and when doing what is right is your north star, that is always a good recipe for good public relations!
There is no time like the present to assess how well your software and content are meeting accessibility standards.
In general, if you conform to the principles of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, you are doing your part towards making your content more accessible for all audiences, including those who are differently abled.
To keep up to date with accessibility, consider becoming a champion of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (the 3rd Thursday of each May).
At Better Impact, we take accessibility standards seriously. We strive for WCGA 2.1 AA compliance when making decisions about the development of our software solutions. We’re committed to including accessibility improvements with each software upgrade released. Explore our software by visiting your regional Better Impact website: USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand or Ireland.
In the comments below, tell us what you are doing to make your software and content more accessible.
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