As diversity, equity and inclusion practices continue to gain importance, many organizations have taken the time to audit their website and content to find ways to improve their accessibility and inclusion efforts. However, the first step towards true inclusion and accessibility for many associations is hiring an accessibility specialist to focus on providing equal opportunities for all of your organization’s members, staff, volunteers and audience.
An accessibility specialist is someone whose role at an organization is to ensure that any and all online and in-person products, services, locations and accommodations are accessible for those who need them.
According to hiring specialist Teamed, an accountability specialist “is responsible for ensuring digital learning materials and online experiences meet accessibility standards and regulations.”
Some ways they can accomplish this is by continually monitoring and updating accommodations as needed – typically organizations will consult the Americans with Disabilities Act for guidance.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act was instituted in 1990 in an effort to end discrimination based on differing abilities,” explained Siteimprove. “Drawing heavily from the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which established protections against discrimination based on race, religion, sex or national origin, the ADA went a step further by requiring organizations to provide ‘reasonable accommodations’ to employees with disabilities.”
That being said, the Americans with Disabilities Act “does not explicitly address online compliance.”
If there is no legal reason to prioritize these accommodations, why do it? Simply put, because purpose-driven organizations should strive to include all in their attempts to better the world.
Additionally, those same people who need accommodations are potential customers, members or even contributors that can help to generate value or awareness for your business.
As leaders in the nonprofit industry as well as mentors for other philanthropic organizations, associations have the unique ability to influence industry standards, but also the responsibility to use their resources for the betterment of the world as a whole.
For most associations, the biggest liability in terms of accessibility compliance is their website. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility offers a list of common web accessibility issues associations should avoid. Here are some:
According to the CDC, “vision disability is one of the top 10 disabilities among adults 18 years and older.” With how common this disability is, text options should be the first thing added to an accessible website.
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility suggests that text size, contrast between the text and page and color options should be flexible and easily adjustable for website visitors with vision impairments.
In addition to the text options for visually impaired website visitors, tab-navigation should be straightforward and easy to perform.
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility shares that “accessible websites should be structured so that pressing ‘tab’ logically moves the user from the address bar to menus, across form fields and links, and to any other content areas in a clear and easy-to-follow manner.”
As stated by the World Health Organization, “globally, 1.5 billion people live with some degree of hearing loss.” Statistically speaking, there is no way your association’s audience does not contain someone with a hearing impairment.
Creating captions or transcripts for interviews, conferences, webinars or any audio or video files will allow hearing-impaired individuals to participate and learn from the content shared on your website.
As organizations plan for the new year, prioritizing inclusivity through accessibility should be at the top of the list. Whether it be adjusting color schemes, creating a consistent website layout, utilizing alt tags for videos and pictures or making sure that in-person events are easily accessible for all, holding your organization accountable shows the world you care.
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Ashley Neal joined the Sidecar team in March of 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic began to shut down life as we knew it. Having to adapt, overcome and predict the changes needed to survive in the new normal, Ashley now has the skills needed to juggle any obstacle thrown her way. A graduate from Southeastern Louisiana University in the field of Strategic Communications, Ashley spends her days balancing her work with her love of dogs. Taking her large pack of dogs to restaurants, hiking trails, vacations and even participating in dog shows and sports is the highlight of her weekends.
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