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Feature image How to Make Your Nonprofit Website More Accessible

If you’re a nonprofit, then you might not have the resources to dedicate to a full website overhaul. Still, maintaining accessibility is critical. How can you balance your desire for accessibility with your strict budget? There are a few ways!

What Regulations Apply?

That depends a lot on each organization because each nonprofit has different funding sources. However, if you receive federal funding, then Section 508 will comply, “Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires all federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to have Section 508 compliant websites.”[1] You can get more information about Section 508 by reading our recent post on the topic.

In addition, websites in the US need to be WCAG 2.0 compliant, “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these.”[2] There’s also a post about WCAG 2.0 for you to read if you need more details.

How to Make Your Site Compliant

So now that you know there are rules, it’s time to start fixing your site so that it meets the requirements. This will take some time and effort, but it’s pretty important so here are some ways to bring your site up to code.

1. Learn Yourself

Ok, I know you probably work a lot of overtime as it is. I was an intern for a nonprofit in college and I saw the team’s dedication drive them to work far beyond normal hours. You’re probably spending a lot of time focusing on the core issues that your nonprofit cares about. But as a public organization, it’s your duty to ensure that everyone can access your website’s content. Here are a few simple ways to achieve that yourself:

  • Check to see what issues your website has in its current form – Before you can make changes, you need to know what the problem areas are on your site. Luckily there are free and simple to use compliance checkers to help you out.
  • Install Userway’s free widget – Seriously, it’ll help. You don’t have to touch your site’s code, and you don’t need to spend hours making changes. Instead, the widget will create a more accessible website for your users by giving them options to accommodate their needs.
  • Make Updates – Now that you know where the gaps in compliance are, it’s time to fix them. This can be the tricky part because unfortunately WCAG 2.0 guidelines are a bit vague on what levels are required to actually achieve compliance. Still, if you make the changes that were flagged during the checking phase, you will likely be well on your way to compliance.

2. Get an Intern

Like I said before, I interned for a nonprofit and did a lot of different tasks for nothing beyond college credit. If you want to make your website more accessible but just can’t seem to get around to it, then an intern might be your best bet. Local college students are always looking for practical experience to put on their resume. You can explain that you want to comply with digital accessibility standards, and allow them to make the necessary updates. It might be best to look for someone who is majoring in web design, as they will probably make the changes in a way that maintains the integrity of your site’s original vision. An intern is a great way to get the benefit of an accessible site while giving a student the opportunity to gain real-world experience. Plus it’s a cheap alternative to hiring a professional.

3. Find a Volunteer

Ask around in your community, and you might just be able to find a great fit for your project. There are lots of people who are willing to lend time and assistance to the causes that they care about. If you’re not sure about local networking, then try a volunteer match website. There are a few great websites that match nonprofits that need help with professionals willing to lend their time and expertise. Below are two popular sites that link nonprofits with field experts:

  • Catchafire – This site is only for volunteer positions and assistance.
  • idealist – This site is for volunteering, internships, and paid positions.

4. Hire an Expert

If free resources don’t seem to be abundant then you can try hiring an expert to make your site more accessible. While this might be a more expensive option, it can keep your website compliant in presumably a short amount of time. There are individuals who can review and update your site on a freelance basis and there are also companies that specialize in updating websites to be accessible. Experts can optimize your site so that it is both accessible and useful, so you may see improvements made that extend far beyond Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 compliance.

Compliance is critical for a lot of reasons. Primarily, it’s just the right thing to do. Inclusive technology shouldn’t be a “nice to have” or an “if there’s an extra room in the budget” item. Instead, it needs to be a base-level that every business, company, organization, and personal website follows. If accessible websites become the norm, it’ll make the web a place for everyone instead of just a place for people who can use sites as-they-are without accommodations.

If that’s not enough, then consider the user you are alienating huge groups of people (which includes potential donors and volunteers). Reaching a wider user-base with an accessible website just makes sense.

Are you a nonprofit that has tips on making an accessible website? What resources did you tap into to help make your website compliant? Share your strategy in the comments below and help other nonprofits on the path to compliance!