A Comprehensive Guide: How to Make an Accessible Nonprofit Website

Lauren Uhl June 18, 2019, by Lauren Uhl

Website Maintenance Webinar - Register CTAIn essence, the internet is designed to be accessible for all persons with all soft/hardware, languages, locations, and abilities. Though accessibility may seem like an idealistic standard, it is actually a legal necessity. According to UsableNet research, accessibility lawsuits have increased 181% from 2017-2018 with no signs of slowing. Thus, it the website designer’s responsibility to ensure that their website includes all types of users. By understanding the various dimensions of accessibility, you can work to make your nonprofit website accessible for all.  

What Is Accessibility?

Website accessibility, though at times a legal nightmare, benefits everyone. As it relates to those with special needs, web designers must consider those with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual differences when constructing all elements of the website. Web designers also must be cognizant of those with old age, temporary/situational disabilities, slow internet, and such. Once all these populations have been considered, your nonprofit website will reach and influence diverse groups. Here are ways websites can be more accessible as it relates to text, colors, and general design elements.

Accessibility in Text

The main component of website content involves the text, so keeping it accessible is key.

  • First, make sure the text is at least at size 16. This easy fix will help those who are hard of sight.
  • Next, provide alternative text for non-text content. In other words, write a short descriptive sketch with keywords to accompany all images. This is called your alt-text.
  • And for videos, include closed captions or a manuscript so those hard of hearing will be accommodated.
  • Finally, make all links text-descriptive. This means eliminating “click here to read more” tabs and others similar.

By checking your website’s text accessibility, you are eliminating legal hassles while reaching diverse groups across the globe.

Accessibility in Color  

To assist those who are colorblind, visually impaired, or even epileptic, it’s important to assess color schemes on your website.

First, check your color contrast. According to WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) the contrast ratio for text and images should be at least 4.5. For large text, the contrast should be at least 3:1, whereas incidental text/images and logotypes do not have any contrast requirements.

Further, the color of any content should not be the only indication of meaning. For example, you can highlight in yellow or bolden in red text for emphasis, however, you need to accompany the color content with additional meaning indications. That way, those with sight issues will still garner content at full capacity.

Accessibility in Navigation  

accessibilityTo best reach groups in developing areas and those with old age, web designers should make navigation as seamless as possible.

For example, if there is an error of some sort, the error’s message should be put concisely explained in text. If errors are only communicated through a singular mode (i.e. a warning icon), underserved demographics may remain confused as to how the error occurred and how to best resolve it.

As it relates to tab navigation, an accessible website will allow users to navigate the entire website via the keyboard. That way, those with and without mouse pads can travel through the website with ease. For our websites, we use the wordpress plugin from userway.org.

And if your website has time limits in any capacity, (i.e. membership login resets), ensure that the time limit is flexible. Otherwise, users with slow internet, mental/physical disabilities, or old age will not be aptly accommodated. One way to maintain time limits while catering to these demographics would be to insert time warnings so users will remain alert and attune to whatever limits you’ve set.

Accessibility Software Help

If you feel solid in your website’s accessibility or you have some concerns, consider utilizing accessibility software to help identify and resolve potential issues.

In Conclusion...

Checking and maintaining an accessible website overlaps with best practices for website maintenance and user experience. Additionally, it will save you legal battles and reactive burdens. Although it is quite cumbersome to routinely assess, it will help you better serve your constituents and your nonprofit population.

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Lauren Uhl

Lauren Uhl

Lauren Uhl is a copywriter at Elevation, a full-service nonprofit web design agency. Lauren earned her B.A. in English Literature, Secondary Education, and Philosophy from Gonzaga University and is currently studying for her M.Ed. at the University of Portland. Lauren believes writing can change the world: that’s why she teaches middle schoolers Language Arts and History through a social justice lens. She aspires to earn her PhD in English, teach at the college level, and continue facilitating courageous conversations. More than anything, she hopes that she can find the right words when people need it the most.

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