Every nonprofit leader should be ensuring that their organization understands the importance of digital accessibility and taking action to put those principles into place. Sometimes achieving digital accessibility can be challenging – such as when it requires updating an obsolete system or website. Other times it can be as simple as asking the right questions when adopting new technology. In either case, you will need to know what digital accessibility is and what is at stake in getting it right.
Digital accessibility concerns the ability of a broad range of technology to be easily navigated and understood by a wide range of users, including those users who have additional visual, auditory, motor or cognitive needs. Many people are familiar with the term regarding external, constituent facing systems such as websites, mobile applications and electronic documents. However, it also refers to internally facing systems used by staff and other organizational stakeholders who need to conduct activities on behalf of the nonprofit.
I’ve been focused on digital accessibility issues for several years now. Having supported both American Cancer Society and American Heart Association in updating web properties following lawsuits related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, I prioritize staying up to date on how the technology we recommend supports accessibility. In both of these examples, legal action prompted settlements wherein the organization agreed to ensure future digital properties met web accessibility guidelines. Specifically, they used the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG), which have been in effect since 2008, and their guide as it covers a broad range of recommendations to improve accessibility of web content.
The same principles that have driven legal action in the online space, apply to all digital technology systems used by nonprofits. Beyond legal requirements, nonprofits have a unique responsibility to ensure that both its services are accessible to the broadest possible audience and that systems within the organization can be used by the broadest pool of potential staff.
Last year Heller Consulting shared how its business practices along with Salesforce’s strong reputation for following accessible best practices allowed them to implement a Customer Relationship Management solution that met the needs of Guide Dogs for the Blind in enabling accessible business practices.
Not all software providers have made digital accessibility as high of a priority as the examples I’ve shared. That’s why it is critical for leaders who are evaluating and selecting digital technology to add digital accessibility to their list of requirements. They should also ask their existing vendors and software providers what they are doing to ensure their products meet modern digital accessibility standards.
By prioritizing digital accessibility as an issue important to the organization, leaders will help their nonprofit further its mission, reach more people, reduce the risk of litigation, and most importantly, support staff, volunteers and other stakeholders.
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