Why Accessibility and Community Go Hand in Hand

Community Strategy //

Nuala Cronin
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Community in 2022 is going to look a little different than it does right now. Vanilla reports on community predictions annually, and in the 7th edition of Community Predictions, they discuss how accessibility and community go hand-in-hand, and so many other topics. Community Predictions 2022 is a complimentary eBook that can help prepare you and your community for the coming year. Get your copy here.

In the meantime, if you want to ensure more accessibility in your community find out how you can do just that.

Many communities are built on the idea of inclusivity. They’re places where people from any background can come together and share thoughts and ideas. However, there are many online communities that aren’t open to all. And it’s because they aren’t embracing accessibility.  

In this article we cover why accessibility is an important item to invest in, some good first steps you can take to start down the path toward accessibility, and also a few tactics to get buy-in from your company’s senior leadership to get the ball rolling.  

Why accessibility in community is important 

Around 15% of people in the world live with some sort of disability. To put that into perspective, that is around 1 billion people. With that being the case, it’s a near certainty that someone in your community, or interested in joining your community, has a disability.  

 Though there have been strides in certain areas of society for accessibility, websites aren’t in that group. In fact, they’re some of the worst offenders. Research found that 98% of top 1 million websites don’t offer full accessibility 

 It should come as no surprise that people with disabilities leave websites without accessibility features 71% of time. Meaning if your online community isn’t accessible that you’re missing out on a lot of potential members. 

Beyond excluding people, you could even face potential legal trouble for not having an accessible site. Web accessibility lawsuits were up 183% 2017-2018 and have no signs of slowing down.  

Good first steps to take 

If you want to have a truly inclusive community you need to take steps toward accessibility. Achieving full accessibility is a big undertaking. That said, there are steps you can start taking right now to start down the path toward accessibility.  

  • Add closed-captions to videos – closed captions are very useful for people who are hard-of-hearing. Many tools like YouTube have an option to add them in when uploading a video, making the process relatively easy.  
  • Create audio versions of posts/ guides – audio versions of content are very useful for people with vision impairments. You might even consider splitting these up into sections so the listener can get right to the content they’re most interested in.  
  • Pay attention to your contrast ratio – sometimes the background color of a page and text are very close in contrast, making it difficult to distinguish text. Make sure you’re using at least a 4:1 ratio (man even suggest 7:1). If you’re not sure about the ratio on your site, there are a number of tools you can use to check it 
  • Purchase tools with accessibility tools built in – these days there are many tools that take accessibility into account for you. Finding those tools can make adding accessibility features easier, and more cost effective for your team.  
  • Include alt-text for images – alt-text is descriptive text for images that screen readers use. Most content management tools have a spot for alt text. By adding it in you ensure everyone interacting with your content is able to get the most out of it.    

 Tackling all the accessibility issues that exist on your site at once probably isn’t realistic. That said, any positive step you can take is a good one. Even if it’s something small, take the time to invest in it. You never know how much of an impact it might make.   

As Marjorie Anderson said, “Communities can light the way in terms of accessibility. There are plenty of organizations who understand the necessity of enabling accessibility and if you’re not working on catching up, you’re simply going to fall behind.” 

 

Getting buy-in from leadership   

Making your community accessible comes at a cost. And those costs probably have to be approved by someone. Since accessibility features aren’t always the most visible it can sometimes be hard to get buy-in from senior leadership.  

If you’re worried some may be hesitant, there are a few talking points you can use. First, it’s the law. As we mentioned above, websites are public spaces according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning that you risk a lawsuit if your site isn’t accessible.  

Second, you’re losing access to a big potential group of community members. Research found people with disabilities simply don’t interact with sites that aren’t accessible. Building a community is hard enough, and when you exclude an entire group that will only make it harder.  

 Third, having an accessible site can help increase traffic to your site. NPR created transcripts for accessibility purposes for a popular radio show of theirs called This American Life. After doing so they saw over a 6% increase in search volume and total unique viewers increased by over 4%. Those numbers may not sound huge, but over time they add up. 

Looking to the future  

The need for accessible online resources isn’t going anywhere. As more and more companies start investing in accessibility, those who don’t will eventually be left behind. The time to take action is now. It doesn’t mean you need to do an entire overhaul of your entire site, but you should start making positive strides.  

Investing in accessibility will serve current and future members, as well as your community as a whole. As the saying goes, “when we all do better, we all do better.”  

If you want to learn more about the future of accessibility and how community fits in, download Community Predictions 2022 to find out what experts in the community field see as necessary to the success of organizations.  

In Community Predictions 2022, we break this topic down even further and incorporate insight from many experts on how you can actively ensure accessibility is a priority in your community. Download your free copy here.

Nuala Cronin

Content Marketing Manager

Nuala is the Content Marketing Manager at Vanilla by Higher Logic. Nuala loves creating content, analyzing copy, and all things language.

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