Master Website Accessibility: Here's How


Image depicting the complexity of creating an accessible website.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a remarkable 27% of Americans have a disability that makes it difficult to access online information.

For associations and businesses that depend on their website as a primary source of engagement, connection, and value, making your website content accessible to all visitors is essential.

Many organizations mistake website accessibility for compliance with standards or mandates; it’s more than that. Accessibility is about creating a truly inclusive experience that empowers members to partake in your mission, engage with your teams, and make the most of the solutions and benefits your organization offers.

So, how do you build an inclusive website? What does it look like? What hurdles stand in the way of achieving even the most basic level of accessibility standards? And most important: How can you ensure that your site remains inclusive as the needs of your customers and members evolve?

As you might expect, the answer isn’t simple. But with a few purpose-built tools and a plan for continuous improvement, you can create a site that welcomes more visitors—and empowers engagement and conversions from more of your target audience.

Let’s look at a pathway to true website inclusivity.

It’s Not IF the Site Should Be Accessible—it's HOW

How can you achieve compliance, keep up with evolving requirements, and truly meet the needs of site users?

To answer these questions, please join our upcoming webinar, presented in collaboration with the Colorado Society of Association Executives (CSAE).

Web Accessibility: Building a Culture of Online Inclusivity

Date: Friday, May 17, 2024

Time: 8:15 am MT │ 10:15 am ET │ 7:15 am PT

Register Now

What Are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)?

The first step to website accessibility is understanding the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines are a set of global standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure that web content is accessible to people with disabilities.

Overall, WCAG provides recommendations based on four principles. The principles are designed to make web content more

  • perceivable,

  • operable,

  • understandable,

  • and robust

—for all users, including those with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities.

The guidelines span 78 total requirements across three levels of compliance: A, AA, and AAA.

You can achieve Level A without greatly impacting your existing site. However, to build a truly inclusive experience, AA or AAA is preferred.

View of some of the tools in Recite Me's Accessibility Toolbar

Can I Quickly Make My Website WCAG Compliant?

For most organizations, digital accessibility is a journey, not a quick fix.

If you're starting to explore your options, you'll likely be aware of accessibility toolbars. A toolbar is a great starting point—but no toolbar will "make" you WCAG compliant. Toolbars are designed to improve your users' experience through functionality such as:

  • Translation

  • Screen readers

  • Design options to adjust content for easier reading

When searching for an accessibility toolbar, be mindful of free or low-cost options that act only as overlays. Some tools have limited functionality with optional "add ons" that can increase your costs. Ideally, you want an embedded widget with extensive, built-in functional controls such as Recite Me’s Assistive Toolbar.

Although accessibility toolbars provide helpful short-term assistance in breaking down some barriers, they aren't standalone compliance solutions.

Developing a Long-Term Website Accessibility Strategy

Where do you start?

Whether your inclusivity program is mandated by external regulations or your internal mission (or both), it's important to come to the table with the understanding that this is an ongoing effort. Like any web project, inclusivity requires intentional effort, adaptability, and regular maintenance.

Create an accessibility plan

Your plan should clearly define your audience’s most critical needs, accessibility goals, and the internal resources that will help you get to where you need to go.

Write an accessibility statement

Writing an accessibility statement aligns your teams around a central vision and creates the momentum necessary to build a more inclusive website. It also provides a public-facing commitment to your accessibility-improvement process—and acknowledges that progress along the way is ongoing. The W3C website has an easy-to-use interactive tool to help you generate an accessibility statement.

Image of recommendations offered by Recite Me's Accessibility Checker

Deploy a comprehensive accessibility checker tool.

Like toolbars, accessibility checker tools vary widely in features and effectiveness. These tools are designed to specifically identify accessibility barriers so that your team can make progress in meeting WCAG requirements. W3C offers a list of checker-tool options here.

Select one that works for you. But remember, the aim is not just to identify needed accessibility improvements; you’ll want to consider how the selected tool will support your overall governance strategy long term and make it easier to:

  • Prioritize issues, dealing with simple fixes immediately

  • Monitor and audit your site regularly, adding to the fix list

  • Track and document your progress

For example, IBM’s free tool will help you identify issues to fix. But an accessibility checker tool from Recite Me offers actionable recommendations to address those issues, tracking of your accessibility improvements and upcoming priorities, and reporting so that you can demonstrate your progress.

Refactored has partnered with Recite Me, a global leading enterprise SaaS accessibility solution provider. Together, we empower our clients with a viable, pragmatic approach to accessibility that you can bake into a new website build—or implement on your existing site. Learn more about our Website Accessibility Solution.

Feeling overwhelmed? Get website accessibility help.

Websites evolve. Your members’ needs change. It makes sense then to take a strategic approach to accessibility that enables you to easily adapt and continuously improve.

A successful accessibility strategy accommodates teams with limited budget, resources, and time. It must be easy to manage and sustainable. And it must address the diverse needs of site visitors in practical, meaningful ways.

If you’re facing challenges in making your website more inclusive, seek a trusted website development partner that includes accessibility in their process—instead of as an afterthought. Talk to us about how we can put you on the path to a more inclusive digital presence.

Request a Web Accessibility Audit