• Nonprofit Learning Lab

8 Ways to Make Your Website and Member Portal More Accessible

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

This is a guest blog post by Farhad Khan from Grype. It has been edited for clarity.



Accessibility is an important concept that is becoming increasingly incorporated into the zeitgeist. In the spirit of this important movement, we invited web accessibility specialist, author, and UN special advisor, David Berman on our podcast to share ideas with associations about accessibility for their websites and member portals. David’s inspired outlook and practical suggestions were so striking that we are recapping some of his key takeaways in this blog to help associations make their digital footprint more inclusive.


Accessibility Affects Us All

David Berman’s key message is that all of us are affected by disability in some measure. We all have loved ones with a disability, and at some points of our own lives we may live with a temporary deficit; an accident that affects our mobility, macular degeneration — the possibilities are endless. We live in a generation that has the means and ability to make the world, and the world wide web, accommodate a wide spectrum of abilities and make it accessible to all. An interesting example would be the curb cuts in the sidewalks for wheelchairs; this now helps people pushing strollers, roller skaters, and anyone pulling groceries behind them. Another example would be voice recognition software

or voice-to-text; now everyone can send audio messages without having to type.


How Accessibility Accommodations Helps with Member Engagement and Retention

David brings powerful arguments that when we design a world for the extremes (i.e. for people with disabilities, and keeping a wide continuum of disability in mind), everyone benefits By making your membership portal and member benefits more accessible, you open the door to more members being able to join and participate in your member benefits. Accessibility allows for greater member engagement, member satisfaction, and member retention.


Budget is King

Most associations are on a strict budget with limited staff. Approval from your board to green-light building a new inclusive website and member portal may be a while away. If a new website and member portal are on the table, of course, the ideal scenario is to conceive your website and member portal design with accessibility in mind.

For those of us that associate accessibility with a high price tag that has no path to a return on investment, David encouraged you to reconsider that view. David expressed how associations would not lose out financially by making their benefits inclusive, but rather the flexibility and inclusivity would decrease member churn of members with a deficit and increase member revenue by being able to service a wider net of people.

Until the budget for a new site and portal is on the table, this blog outlines 8 best practices to make your current website and member portal more accessible.


8 Ways to Make Your Website and Member Portal More Accessible

Here are the top 8 accessibility functionalities David suggests:


1. Is the Focus Visible on Your Website and Member Portal? (aka Tabbing)

Open your website and member portal. Hit the tab button. Hit it again, and again. What you are doing is replicating the experience of someone trying to access your website who is sighted but has mobility issues. Ideally, hitting the tab button should bring focus to links and CTA buttons on the page, jumping from one to the other with each click of the tab button. This functionality assists a sighted person with mobility issues to navigate the site and member portal and engage with the content in a meaningful way. If the focus isn’t visible, it takes two minutes of code to fix this.


Suggested Action Item Test Focus Visibility (aka tabbing) on your site and member portal. If it doesn't work, make a call to your developers to make this meaningful quick fix.


2. Does Your Website and Member Portal Pass a Colour Contrast Test?

There are free tools online that analyze the color contrasts between the foreground, background, and CTA (call to action) buttons on your site and member portal. Choose colors with sufficient color contrast to assist individuals with a color deficit or limited sight. This way they can more easily differentiate the content on your site and member portal.


How much of a contrast do you need? Good question. Let’s go a little deeper into web accessibility standards: the WCAG (Web Compliance Accessibility Guidelines) are the only global standard for web accessibility. They are published by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). There are three main accessibility standards: A, AA, and AAA. 2.0 AA is the most quoted and referenced set of standards with 38 success criteria. 2.1 AA is a more recent update of the AA success criteria, adding an additional 12 criteria, to account for innovations in technology, such as touch screens. The European Union, for instance, has adopted the 2.1 AA standard, and this is the most mainstream standard.


If that was too much, that’s okay! Just put in your pocket “2.1 AA” and hand that to your developer!


Suggested Action Item Run your website and member portal’s colour scheme through a free color contrast analyzer tool online to ensure you meet the AA standard of a 4.5:1 color contrast ratio.


3. Do You Provide Audio Descriptions of Your Videos?

Adding the audio description field and recording the audio clips for your videos will take a little extra effort. As a reward for your effort, however, all of your media becomes so much more searchable! The SEO of your site and member portal will rise and help bring organic traffic to your site and member portal — another great example of how accessibility features benefit everyone.


Suggested Action Item Add creating audio descriptions to your process of developing future videos.


4. Do you Provide Captions on Your Videos?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is making it easier and more affordable to provide captions to your videos. This has already become somewhat of an industry standard for videos shared to social media where users can read along while watching videos with the audio turned off. This is a great example of how doing something to help an extreme user benefits everyone.


Suggested Action Item Add captions to your video editing process for any future videos you produce for your site and member portal.


5. Do your Webforms Comply with WCAG Web Standards?

All of us have had the experience of fighting with a webform; for a doctor’s visit, to register for something, to buy something, you name it. By having your webforms comply with WCAG accessibility standards everyone wins because it reduces form abandonment. Creating quality, usable forms will reduce form abandonment, get your association the leads and registration you want.


Suggested Action Item Confirm that your web forms comply with WCAG Web Standards.

6. Are Your Publicly Shared Documents in an Accessible Format?

As part of your member benefits or even the lead generation on your public website, you offer documents, certificates, and pdfs. Are these documents available in an accessible format? Use the WCAG guidelines for type size, color contrast, and other success criteria. Use this for your presentations, webinar slides, and event handouts. This will make your presentations and events more accessible — and help everyone that left their glasses at home, too!


Suggested Action Item Confirm that your documents, lead magnets, and presentation slides meet WCAG Accessibility Standards.


7. Have You Performed Accessibility Testing on Your Member Portal?

This is the most involved task that you’ll find on this list. Taking the time to hire a consultant to perform accessibility testing on your association’s website and member portal will help your association identify the gaps needing to be addressed. At the least, you can get to any low-hanging fruit that can easily be changed.


Suggested Action Item Contact an accessibility consultant to perform usability testing for your site and member portal.


8. Is Accessibility a Priority at Your Association?

Disability is more common than you may think. We encourage you to question the assumption that your association’s audience doesn’t have a sizeable percentage of individuals with some level of disability.

We live in a world where 10% of people live with a visible disability, and countless others with a hidden, or unseen, disability. With 50% of people over 50 having a decreased sense of sight that only decreases with age and 10% of males are colorblind, the list of accessibility needs only grows.

When we internalize that disability is all around us, we can be proactive to make it part of our association’s value system to make decisions that are inclusive of web accessibility.


Suggested Action Item Talk to your board member and advisory team about making accessibility a core value of your association and include it in your future decision-making process.


Before the Fact Versus After the Fact

While the idealism that would motivate an association to bring in a consultant to perform usability testing is admirable, be warned that the process of remediating your existing website and member portal can be expensive and render mediocre results. (Think of retrofitting an old building with an elevator, versus constructing a new building with accessibility as part of the design.)

That being said, the accessibility features listed above can more or less be easily incorporated into your association's website, member portal, and member benefits. Adopting new and improved standards may feel clunky at first, but like any muscle, the more you use it the most natural it will feel.


Feel Empowered to Make a Positive Change for Tangible Wins for Your Association

Every website and member portal can be made more accessible. This benefits all members, not just those with an obvious visible disability, and your association as a whole as well. It’s funny how “doing the right thing” regarding inclusivity actually increases the SEO of your website, decreases form abandonment and helps more members and potential members access your benefits. Win-win-win!


Get the Green Light for a New Website and Member Portal

Perhaps your association’s team and membership have been wanting a new website or member portal, but the budget hasn’t been approved. Perhaps highlighting the value of an inclusive website and member portal may be the value push your board needs to approve the budget. This may open the door to sponsors who share this value. It’s not just a value proposition, it’s dollars and cents: creating a site and member portal that is inclusive from the ground up provides an enhanced experience for all your members and brings in other members who couldn’t participate otherwise. Web accessibility converts to increased member satisfaction, member engagement, and member retention.

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