Our starter guide for website accessibility

Getting started with accessibility might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Just by giving this blog a read is already a great step in the right direction.
Tags: Blog, Accessibility, Non-profit web design, Website

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Charity Digital Podcast recently came out with a great podcast episode called: “Getting started with web accessibility”. (You can listen to the podcast here – we highly recommend it!). 

Here are our thoughts, feelings and any other tips we have for making your charity website as accessible and inclusive.

The three reasons for accessibility

While accessibility reasons might be clear to some, there are other lesser-known factors to consider when thinking about accessibility.

Legal

In the UK, there have been some efforts towards accessibility in the past decade or two. The Equality Act 2010, was brought in to ensure that digital content and services are accessible to all, regardless of disability. Under this legislation, it is a legal requirement for public sector organisations, as well as businesses providing goods and services to the public, to make their websites and digital content accessible to individuals with disabilities. The section that relates to internet accessibility (BS 8878) was updated in 2019 to include that all websites and web apps should:

  • “Consider accessibility in decision-making processes throughout the development phase of any website. “
  •  “Have an established policy for digital accessibility, and document any decisions related to digital accessibility. “
  •  “Communicate accessibility decisions and goals clearly by publishing an accessibility statement on their websites. “

While there’s still a long way to go to enforce and outline these rules, accessibility is quickly becoming a lot more prevalent, so it is best for all charities to show they are, at the very least, working towards these accessibility standards.

Ethical

The most obvious reason for most people to consider accessibility on the web, is the ethical reason. In the Charity Digital Podcast, a great point was made, that the internet is just ‘an extension of the physical world’ and that means people with disabilities shouldn’t be held back on the web as well.

Scope has a great article on their Social Model of Disability which describes how people are only disabled by barriers in society, not their differences. Any charity should strive to make sure that any potential donor, volunteer or benefactor can access their website with ease.

Commercial

There is also a commercial benefit to accessibility. By having a website that is clearly laid out, with easy to read content, and a good user experience, more users will come back to your site. More users means more potential donors or volunteers. It also will increase your SEO, as more users on your site tells google that your site is relevant and has good authority which means you will be higher up the rankings on google and be pushed to more people.

This won’t happen overnight, and you will need a competent SEO plan to go hand in hand, but an accessible site definitely helps boost the outcomes of these efforts.

Decision mapping your accessibility

According to the study by Web Accessibility in 2023, 96.4% of the top 1 million websites return accessibility errors and warnings, so there are still huge waves that need to be made on the internet to make sure it is as accessible as possible.

Although it seems overwhelming, the best thing in terms of your charity accessibility plan is to start. We can split the decision mapping into quick wins, and a more long term strategy.

Quick wins

Here are some quick wins that are part of the top 5 issues with accessibility on the internet. By checking these off, you can see some improvements to your accessibility on your site with minimal effort.

  • Missing alt text – This is a super easy win for your website. Alt text (also known as alternative text) is the text that appears if someone is using a screen reader and cannot view the image. If you use a page builder, there’s usually a field for this. If your site is specially coded, add the ‘alt’ variable to your image. Here is a great article from the UK Government’s website on writing good and relevant alt text.
  •  Empty links – On some websites, you might use an icon or image that links through to another page. Whilst visually this might look nice, screen readers have nothing to play back to the user. By adding the A.R.I.A-label’ attribute to your links, or making sure your navigation buttons include text, is a quick win for your accessibility score.
  •  Empty buttons – Much like the empty links, empty buttons have the same issue. If there’s no text in the button attribute, screen reader’s can’t tell the user what that button does, or where that button goes. By adding text to the button or the ‘A.R.I.A-Label’ , you can solve this accessibility issue.

Long term Plans

If you have these quick wins sorted, it might be worth investing some time into a more long term accessibility plan.

Charity Digital explained in the podcast that they are currently on their own journey, and recommend developing a house style for your charity if you haven’t already. This gives you an opportunity to look at all content from a top down perspective and make sure anything going on internally and externally in your charity is inclusive and accessible (here’s one of our previous blogs on the importance of brand guidelines). It also gives you space to review any contrast issues within your brand. Some charities might not be able to afford a full rebrand, so identifying any ‘problem’ colour combinations and finding those that pass the WCAG 2.1 AA contrast ratio of 4.5 is key to making your site and content accessible. WebAim has a great and easy to use colour contrast checker – just enter in the two hex codes of the numbers and it will tell you to what level it will pass or fail.

Anything else to add?

Hopefully this blog has armed you with information you might need to convince stakeholders to invest in your accessibility, or given you some direction on where to start with your charity.

Whilst this blog only scratches the surface, there will be more content coming on more specifics of web accessibility, so keep an eye on our journal.

More journal posts

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Date: 1/04/2024

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Date: 4/03/2024

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The Bear Cave will be closed between December 23rd to January 1st

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!