Your offices have wheelchair-accessible doors, hallways and restrooms. You have designated parking spots out front. You welcome service animals. Your association has gone above and beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Nobody can accuse you of being inaccessible or unwelcoming to those with disabilities.
Or can they? How ADA-compliant is your association’s website?
For every person who visits your association’s brick-and-mortar offices, hundreds or even thousands more are checking it out online. Is your website’s virtual presence as accessible as your physical one?
Federal government sites are required by law to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), version 2.0, outlined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). New York State has an executive policy requiring the websites of state agencies – and entities the state contracts with – to meet similar guidelines.
These guidelines are designed to make Web content accessible to individuals with physical, auditory, visual, cognitive, neurological and speech disabilities. They cover such areas as ease of navigation, resizability of text, understandability of content, captioning of videos, text alternatives to images, optimal use of contrast, compatibility with assistive technologies such as text-to-speech programs, and more.
At this time, businesses and nonprofits are not required to have ADA-compliant websites unless they are in a contract relationship with a government entity – however, legislative and court decisions could change that in the future.
So why should you invest the time and money in an ADA-compliant site for your association until you have to? Here are a few reasons:
- It’s the right thing to do. Your association’s website is your face to the world, including millions of people with disabilities – and many others who don’t identify as having a disability but can benefit from a more accessible design.
- It’s good PR. An ADA-compliant website sends the message that your association embraces diversity and recognizes that individuals with disabilities are people with the same rights as everyone else. That sounds like common sense, but despite the advances made in the disability rights movement, many people with disabilities still hear a very different message from the world every day. Send the right one!
- It’s good for your bottom line. There are a lot of people with disabilities who could be participating in your association – as members, supporters, volunteers or staff – but if they can’t navigate your website, they don’t know who you are and why they should get involved with you. At best, they’re unaware. At worst, you’ve turned them off.
It isn’t just those with disabilities who appreciate an ADA-compliant website. The people close to them are also hyper-aware of how inaccessible the world can be. You may be turning them off as well.
- It’s a matter of time. While WCAG doesn’t currently apply to the private and nonprofit sectors, we can expect that to change as awareness of disability issues continues to rise. Why not start now? You have nothing to lose.
“Oh, yes, we do,” you’re probably thinking. “Thousands of dollars! We’re a nonprofit organization on a tight budget!”
Good news: An ADA-compliant website doesn’t have to break the bank. Our ADG Creative web developers create them all the time. Working with another company? Make it mandatory in your specifications that your site be accessible, and tested for accessibility prior to launch.