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February 12, 2021 How Do I Implement An Accessibility Plan For My Association? Richard Green

How Do I Implement An Accessibility Plan For My Association?

Why accessibility is important 

With 1 in 4 U.S. adults – 61 million Americans - living with some type of disability it's no wonder the importance of accessibility and inclusion has reached an all-time high within today's society. Ignoring the accessibility standards of the digital services you offer means you could be potentially alienating more than a quarter of your audience! 

So, even if you are not personally responsible for maintaining and optimizing your website and platforms, you want to make sure your site is meeting the basic accessibility requirements. To do that, you need to understand the benefits of accessibility and how to make it an area of focus for your organization. 

What are the benefits of accessibility best practice? 

By being accessible, it not only opens your services up to everyone but creates better design and user experience. Information on any website should be available to everyone regardless of ability, technology, or environment.  

Building accessibility into your products and processes has a wealth of business benefits, including: 

  • Improved user experience - It is easier for everyone to find and use your services. A better usability, accessibility, and user experience for all boosts a site’s effectiveness and loyalty. 
  • Competitive edge - The wider your audience, the greater your reach and value you can provide. 
  • Legal protection - In some countries, accessibility is required by law and organizations can be sued for discrimination against people with disabilities. 

Watch our free webinar "What Is Accessibility? 3 things association execs need to know!" to give yourself a great foundation on the impact accessibility has, not only for your members but also for your business. In this webinar we are joined by our special guests Knowbility, a non-profit organization leading the way in providing education on accessible information technology.

What areas of my organization are impacted by accessibility?  

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This might be hard to identify as every organization is different, but if you start with your digital services, you’ll have a good place to begin. Your organization’s digital services are how you provide online value and are a key area that can be affected by accessibility.  

This core foundation includes:  

  • Your website perhaps powered by your Association Management System (AMS) 
  • Your online community platform 
  • Your industry job board or career center 
  • Your Learning Management System (LMS)  

Leaving any of these crucial member engagement platforms inaccessible will have a detrimental effect on how your professional audience interacts with your society.  

Making these your main starting points when it comes to your review will allow you tackle the most important pieces first.  

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Find out which tech company provide these services, get in contact with them and ask about their accessible functionality. If they can’t answer your questions or give minimal feedback then that’s a big red flag that your platform is not accessible.  

Another crucial side of accessibility’s impact on your organization is the legal implication. Beyoncé's Parkwood Entertainment, found themselves the target of a class action lawsuit claiming that Beyoncé’s official website violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (1990) by denying visually impaired users with equal access to its products and services. Read Full Article Here

As we’ve explored above, there are endless benefits to offering accessible websites, but considering the reputational damage of finding your society in the headlines, and the victim of a class action lawsuit is reason enough to take it seriously.  

How do I know what makes my platforms accessible? 

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To understand this, you need to know what falls into the realm of accessibility. Below we have listed out the divisions that need to be considered when it comes to delivering on accessibility: 

  • Auditory  
  • Cognitive 
  • Neurological 
  • Physical 
  • Speech 
  • Visual 

Let’s take a look at one of these core sections – Visual. You may not know this but every image on the internet has an option for something called “alt-text”.  

A main principle of accessibility best practice, is the requirement that photos must be coded with alt-text so that screen-readers used by visually impaired users can gather information on the image itself. 

Take a moment and look at a real-world example of what it is really like to rely on a screen-reader to consume content on a web page, something that many of us would find very difficult. Our friends at Knowbility have put together a series of videos looking at how you could use YouTube, Google and more with a screen reader.

Now that I know what to look for, how do I build out our accessibility plan?

Below is a 4-part guide on what you should be addressing to be accessible and a proud a11y.  

1 Establish an accessibility champion or team 

An accessibility champion or team (either internally, or with a 3rd party vendor) can work on pioneering the importance of accessibility and can ensure it is taken into consideration when it comes to things like training, software procurement and awareness.  

Practicing what we preach: Here at Madgex, we assembled a team of Accessibility Avengers back in 2017 who meet regularly to discuss all things accessibility. We've found implementing this approach has made sure accessibility is a thriving part of our business. We'd highly recommend it!

2 Creating an audit  

Understanding the principals is one thing, but these principals need to be put into practice. Doing an accessibility audit means your website and other platforms can be put to the test with the most commonly used assistive technologies and will often involve a team of disabled users testing key journeys on various devices. There are many companies that offer this type of service, so find one that best suits your needs. 

Practicing what we preach: In 2020 we did an accessibility audit of our own career center tech, where a group of users with a range of disabilities navigated our job boards with screen readers, voice activated software, keyboard only (no mouse) and screen magnification. We passed the audit and are implementing advanced suggestions to make our product even more accessible. 

3 Aim for a guideline standard 

We suggest using the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards as your benchmark. There are different levels you can aim for and a good goal is for an AA rating.  

Make sure you are using the latest coding techniques, such as progressive enhancement and ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) to make sure your content and web applications are more accessible. You’ll want to make sure too that these practices are in yours or your vendor’s technology toolkit. 

Practicing what we preach: Madgex has an ongoing commitment to making our services are highly accessible. We aim to consistently achieve an AA standard (or higher) for our association career center partner technology. 

4 Embed these practices into your organization's ethos 

Make sure that accessibility is not just a one-off-project but an ongoing organizational commitment. Discuss implementing process changes so that accessibility is a part of everything you do.  

Practicing what we preach: We are currently working towards an ISO standard in accessibility so that high quality, best practices are at the heart of each area of our business. 

If you’re inspired to become an “a11y” get in contact with us, we’re ready to discuss how a more accessible career center website can cater to your entire professional community and help make you stand out as an inclusive organization.