We all know how frustrating it can be when something on the internet is hard to read or understand. While some may only encounter these barriers occasionally, many individuals living with disabilities or neurodiversity experience barriers to accessibility every single time they visit a web page or open an email. The culprit? Inaccessible design. The good news for nonprofit organizations is that so much can be done to make your communications and web content more accessible.
Especially in the nonprofit space, inclusion matters
Let’s talk about inclusive design!
Inclusive design is an approach that enables and draws on the full range of human diversity. Most importantly, this means including and learning from people with a range of perspectives. Being inclusive goes beyond using inclusive language.
In this article, we’ll discuss why inclusive design matters. We’ll suggest some simple design changes that will yield big results. We’ll also explore how you can budget for the more complex changes that will make your communications more accessible and inclusive.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about your website
- How accessible is it to those with hearing, visual, and/or motor impairments?
- Does it meet the accessibility standards of the W3C?
- Can those who use screen readers easily access the content on your website?
Here are some of the facts
According to Accessible Design, “over a billion people, or 1 in 8 of the world’s population, have some form of disability. As communicators, that is a significant audience – with a collective buying power of $13 trillion globally – to exclude by default or by design”.
This segment of the population also donates to nonprofit organizations. With individual donor numbers diminishing year over year in Canada, overlooking a whole segment is a missed opportunity to strengthen your organization’s impact.
Nonprofit Tech For Good, a leading online technology resource for nonprofit professionals, reported on a global survey taken in 2021. They found that only 22% of nonprofits design their web content with those with visual and hearing disabilities in mind. While this figure is up from 18% in 2019, 78% of nonprofit websites are still inaccessible to those with visual and hearing impairments.
Expanding your offering
With lower average salaries, people with disabilities are more likely to experience poverty and consequently food and housing insecurity, among other issues that affect well-being.
This means that when a website is not inclusive, a large proportion of the population experiences barriers to accessing the services and information they may need. People with disabilities will have more trouble accessing:
- Employment and volunteering opportunities in the nonprofit sector
- Services, programs, and grants that they may benefit from through the nonprofit sector
- Information that may improve their well-being
In a fair and just society, everyone should have easy access to information and opportunities.
“Access to the Internet has become essential in our daily lives. To restrict people with disabilities from it is to restrict their access to everything. The importance of website accessibility and universal access cannot be understated”
– Jason Fayre, National Lead, Accessibility and Assistive Technology, CNIB Foundation
Who benefits from inclusive design?
Everyone benefits when your content is designed inclusively. When your website is easily accessible to all, you will be able to engage so many more visitors and expand your community of potential volunteers, fundraisers, and supporters by including those with diverse needs. If your nonprofit organization is not accessible, you are not meeting the needs of your audience or your community.
The benefits of planning for accessible content
Planning for accessibility is often overlooked. However, the cost of an accessibility audit combined with the cost of retroactively refitting your site can end up being quite high. That’s why, where possible, it’s a good idea to plan to make all aspects of your communications accessible from the very start of your strategic planning process.
Bake accessibility into your planning triad
If you’re about to write your first communications plan or overhaul your existing plan, we recommend working on a shiny new strategic plan and fundraising plan at the same time. This is what we call your planning triad. Once your board of directors has decided that accessibility and inclusivity are key values for your organization, you can set to work on baking accessibility into your planning triad.
How to use a proactive approach when planning for accessibility
Step 1: Evaluate your website for accessibility and use the findings of this assessment to define your organization’s goals. For a deeper dive consider using the services of a social enterprise like Frontier Accessibility who conduct audits and identify actions that ensure that all your digital platforms are inclusive and meet global standards.
Step 2: Assess your organization’s values and decide how important accessibility is to your organization, bearing in mind your values: Find out if your site’s shortcomings are having a negative effect on your impact as an organization. Include this information in your plans.
Step 3: Assess your team’s knowledge about what makes communications accessible. Provide accessibility training and consider hiring a facilitator who can share first hand experience and insight on the value of accessibility to nonprofit organizations.
Step 4: Define roles and responsibilities and reach out to stakeholders for support: Decide who in your team can take on which responsibilities. Identify how your stakeholders, including supporters and volunteers, might be able to assist you in achieving your goals.
Step 5: Secure the funding to begin making changes to your website, your processes, and your other materials. Decide on a budget that can be allocated to making the changes you have decided to make. Get board approval. Then get to work on implementing your changes!
Easier (inexpensive) changes that you can implement in the short-term
Changes that you can make immediately without needing to allocate much budget include:
- Checking for exclusionary language and making your written copy more digestible and easier to read using plain English.
- Signing your team up for free online courses on making communications materials accessible.
- Directing them to resources that cover inclusivity and asset-based framing.
- Adding image IDs, tags, and descriptions to all images on your website, in your email copy, and on social media. Use the automatic captions option wherever possible.
Changes to budget for in the medium-term
- Updating your logo, fonts, and other branding aspects for accessibility across all media.
Carrying out a professional accessibility audit and revamp your site to ensure accessibility for all people. Amending all your video-based content so that every video includes multilingual subtitles and audio descriptions.
Checklist for making your communications accessible
- Have you carved out a portion of your annual communications budget for improvements to accessibility?
- Have you given key members of your team effective and useful training on how to make communications materials accessible?
- Is your logo compatible for those with visual impairments? Have you consulted best practices and sought consultation on how accessible your logo and its various formats are?
- Are the colours and shapes used in your marketing and advertising materials appropriate for those with visual impairments and other disabilities?
- Is your text (font and sizing) easily readable for those with a range of disabilities (across all media)?
- Is the language that you are using across your organization inclusive or does it contain language that excludes?
- Have you updated your web team on your accessibility goals and ensured that they have the tools, knowledge, and resources they need to implement and maintain the changes?
- Have you checked your site for accessibility using an online accessibility checker?
- Have you included an accessibility-check step in your process for building new pages?
- Do all of your images come with descriptions and tags? Are they easily readable?
Apply for a grant to make accessibility a reality
A number of Canadian grants are available for nonprofit organizations that are seeking to improve accessibility. Imagine Canada’s Grant Connect service is a great resource that can help nonprofits to find suitable grants for this purpose.
Here are a few that provide accessibility funding nationwide*:
- The Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF)
Provides funding for projects that make Canadian communities and workplaces more accessible for persons with disabilities.
- The Social Development Partnerships Program – Disability Component (SDPP-D)
A grants and contributions program that seeks to improve the participation and social inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of Canadian society. Provides operating and project funding to not-for-profit organizations.
- Accessible Technology Program funding
Will co-fund innovative projects to develop new assistive and adaptive digital devices and technologies in order to make it easier for Canadians with disabilities to more fully participate in the digital economy.
- Canada Cultural Spaces Fund
Increases and improves access to arts and culture for Canadians nationwide.
*the grants listed are subject to the grantors established application criteria & deadlines
Here are some options for accessibility funding on a provincial basis:
- Support program for the development of strategic sectors and niches of excellence (Quebec)
- Community ACCESS-Ability Program (Nova Scotia)
- CIP Project-Based Grant (Alberta)
- Community Gaming Grants (British Columbia)
- Capital Project Grants (British Columbia)
- Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) (Ontario)
- BGC Funding Innovation (Ontario)
- Age-friendly and accessibility grants (Ontario)
- EnAbling Change Partnership Program (Ontario)
There are many organizations advocating for accessible communications – learn more today!
- The Canadian Abilities Foundation
- Canadian Hearing Society
- Canadian National Institute for the Blind
- Barrier Free Canada
- Connected Canadians
- Dyslexia Canada
- Accessible By Design
Do you need help to make your communications assets more accessible for those with diverse needs? Phil can help! Reach out to us for a free consultation today.