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Accessibility: Three Steps to Get Started

Kim Locraft

Design Director, Forum One

Accessibility focuses on providing access to all people, regardless of disability. While you may have heard of its benefits, or know that you need to prioritize it in your own work, you may not be entirely certain of what that means, how it pertains to you, or what steps you need to take.

In our recent accessibility webinar, we answered these questions by offering a deeper understanding of accessibility, explaining why nonprofits and government agencies should care, confirming what level of accessibility you need, demonstrating how you can incorporate accessibility into your project, and providing tips on what you can do right now to improve your accessibility.

From this webinar, we pull three important steps to help you get started.

Step 1: Deepen your understanding of accessibility

Deepening your understanding of accessibility will not only inspire you to take a more accessible approach, but you’ll better understand how people with disabilities use technology.  This, in turn, will help you create more accessible products.

When you think about laws or guidelines, web accessibility is specific to ensuring that anyone can access and use the same digital information & technology, no matter their disability.

But at its core, accessibility is more than any law or a set of guidelines. It’s about people. It’s about removing barriers. It’s about providing equal access. It’s about inclusion. And it’s about creative problem solving and innovation.

People often think that accessibility only applies to people with a permanent disability. But there’s a whole range temporary disabilities or situational disabilities that also come into play. Understanding this range really expands the number of people who can directly benefit from accessibility.

The great thing is when you prioritize accessibility everyone benefits. Products and services that consider accessibility tend to offer better, more innovative solutions that are preferred—and adopted—by everyone. But don’t take my word for it. Watch this Elise Roy’s TedTalk on designing for disability.

Watch these 10 short accessibility perspective videos to learn about the impact of accessibility and the benefits for everyone.

Step 2: Understand why accessibility is an important part of your work

Prioritizing accessibility has a multiplier effect. It’s going to help you live your mission, it’s going to extend your reach and impact, and it can even help prevent lawsuits.

Live your mission

Your organization is predicated on helping people. Every day you focus on inclusion. You’re raising awareness on problems and implementing solutions. These are the core principles of accessibility.

Accessibility demonstrates your commitment to your mission and your commitment to your audiences. It also strengthens initiatives around Diversity and Inclusion and Social Responsibility.

Extend your reach

Accessibility allows you to reach more people and, in turn, allows more people to contribute back to you. An estimated 20% of Americans have some type of disability. And the other 80% is temporarily abled. These numbers represent people your organization is trying to help, people who are potential partners, and potential donors.

Inaccessible websites risks closing the door on those you’re trying to reach most.

Mitigate lawsuits

Web accessibility lawsuits increased by 177% between 2017 and 2018. That trend is not expected to slow down. [Source: Seyfarth Shaw]

People have the right to be treated equally, and no one should be discriminated against simply because they happen to have a disability. Inaccessible websites, however unintentional, discriminate against people with disabilities.

Improves the experience for everyone

Accessibility aligns with best practices for content, user experience, and design. Taking an accessible approach to your work will result in an improved experience for all your audiences.

Better Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

And if that isn’t enough, an accessible website is easier to find and will improve your SEO.

Step 3: Define the level of accessibility you need

Commit to a plan that works for you.

We recommend starting with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. It’s a mouthful, I know. But WCAG is just a set of guidelines that outlines what you need to do to make your information accessible.

These are the same standards that the U.S. government is already required to follow under Section 508.

These guidelines, combined with an understanding of accessibility and how people with disabilities use the web, will give you a really solid starting place.

Here’s a checklist from WebAIM. This checklist will help you understand the guidelines and the intention behind the rules.

And if you need help building internal support, watch Building Internal Support, a webinar from Level Access.

What’s next?

Stay tuned for the next blog post in our accessibility series where we’ll focus on incorporating accessibility at a project level. In the meantime, I recommend watching a recent webinar we led on accessibility and design. It will give you an overview of how you can start to approach your digital properties more inclusively.

To learn more, watch the webinar!

In March 2019, we held a webinar on “Accessibility and Design: Create the Best Online Experience.” Request a free copy of the webinar recording today.

Written By

Kim Locraft

Design Director, Forum One