mission Matters Why Digital ADA Compliance Matters for Your Nonprofit Organization's Website July 02, 2021 Is your website ADA compliant? It should be! Here's how to ensure all visitors to your website can enjoy your content. Are you compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? With the continued importance of online interactions and the shift of so many business and personal experiences to the Internet, ADA compliance has started to significantly impact websites and how people with assistance needs can access the information on those sites. What is the ADA? The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or ADA, is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. For many years, the way this law impacted businesses was in their hiring decisions and the accommodations they provided at a physical business location for both employees and customers. Wheelchair accessible entrances are one of the most common examples of a business making accommodations for people will special needs. If your organization maintains any kind of web presence, and realistically which company or organization does not have their own website these days, there is a need for a comprehensive Digital ADA Compliance plan. This protects you from ADA litigation based on the inability to access the website with assisted devices, as well as the substantial negative publicity that comes from being sued because of an inaccessible site. What is website accessibility? Not everyone accesses the Web in the same way. For someone with special needs, an assisted device may be required to access online information. For example, someone who is blind may use software known as a screen reader to access website information. The software will read them the site's content to get the information they need – that is IF that site is built to conform to basic standard for accessibility, which will allow screen reader software to do its job. Other people may have a difficult time seeing differences in colors and contrast, so if the text color does not have enough contrast against a background color, they may not be able to read that content. The list of examples goes on and on, and this is just vision impairment. The Laws Around Accessibility The reality is that having an accessible website is not simply "nice to have", or even something you should do solely to avoid bad publicity or even lawsuits. Website accessibility is the law. Target was sued in 2006 because their website was not accessible to blind users. While initially fighting the lawsuit, Target eventually settled the case in 2008, paying $6 million to a "damages fund" and agreed to improve its website accessibility. Why is website accessibility important for nonprofits? Remember, ADA impacts any employer with 15 or more employees, which includes both for profit and nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit organizations that receive federal and state funding should review their grants and contracts to ensure that they are meeting requirements related to ADA accessible websites. A nonprofit’s website is likely one of its most important assets—through which they collect donations, gain support, etc. This makes it crucial to ensure that they’re not excluding any supporters, donors or new visitors from engaging with the organization. Reaching the broadest possible audience is crucial for a nonprofit to advance its mission and achieve its goals. Making Your Website Accessible There are governing bodies, including the W3C (Worldwide Web Consortium), which have established standards for website accessibility. Many of these standards are met simply by building your website correctly and with these standards in mind. First thing to do? = Website audit The first thing you should do is a complete website audit around Digital ADA Compliance. If your current website team does not specialize in this area and very few do, consider calling in an outside firm to run this audit. Having an outside firm audit the site may be better anyway since it is always hard for the company who created a website to assess it effectively. A website accessibility audit should be done against W3C standards. The audit results should detail any discovered issues, which standard they fail to meet, and the recommended changes needed to comply. In many cases, your site may simply need some small changes to become compliant. In other instances, a sorely outdated or old site may need to be rebuilt to ensure website accessibility standards can be met. Whether your site requires only a few tweaks or a total rebuild, this is not an optional investment. As seen in the Target example listed above, the cost of non-compliance far outweighs the price of making the required changes to bring website accessibility to your site. Envision can help! If you are concerned about your site's accessibility, our affiliate company, Envision Technology Advisors, can help. With experience working for nearly every industry, and a specific focus on nonprofits and community foundations, they are uniquely suited to meet your digital communication and ADA compliance needs. Contact us for more information.