06/28/2019

The ability for all Americans to participate in the voting process is vital to ensuring our collective voices across the U.S. are heard. If candidates don't offer accessible websites or platforms for people with disabilities to participate, they nix our right to engage in decisions that impact us.

Remember that there are many different types of disabilities and many different types of assistive technologies to help these users. Here are some basic guidelines that will help ensure your campaign is accessible to all.

computer keyboard with one key depicting an icon of a person who is blind, walking with a long cane

Hire People With Disabilities

The single best way to discover usability and accessibility issues with your campaign website before the public does is to have staff with diverse access methods testing the beta site! Hire programmers and content developers who use screen readers, or screen magnification tools.

As our chief knowledge advancement officer, George Abbott, noted recently, many find that hiring a blind person is a huge advantage because they can add a lot to your team. “We spend so much of our day being problem solvers for everything we do, so we just naturally bring creativity and creative thinking to the work environment and I think that adds value.”

Make Your Website Keyboard-Accessible

People shouldn't have to be able to use a mouse to access your content. Many individuals with motor impairments prefer to use a traditional or modified keyboard for access, and most blind users also rely on keyboards for navigation. The following tips will help keep your website keyboard-navigable.

Use Meaningful Phrases for Link Text

Avoid the ubiquitous “Read More”! People who use a screen reader to visit websites will often tab from link to link—it's a quick way to scan the page and get a sense of what the options are. "Click here" (or "read more") is purely mystifying, especially when heard over and over again on the same page. "Volunteer" is self-explanatory, and lets the reader know what to expect.

Try to avoid using image links, which are hard for people with low vision to decipher, but definitely provide alt text if you do. In this case, the alt text should tell users where they are going.

Are Your Hashtags #ScreenReaderFriendly?

Capitalize the first letter of each word in hashtags so that screen reader software can figure out how to pronounce each word separately. For example: #DisabilityInclusion.

Learn more about creating an accessible social media presence.

Provide Useful Text Alternatives for All Images

Did you label everything on your website that isn't strictly text? In most cases, this means using alternative text to describe the function of the item. In HTML, you can provide alternative text for images by adding alt="your description of the image" within the image tag.

Pictures are probably there for a reason. Certainly, graphical links have a purpose. Image maps need to have alt-text for each "clickable" region.

Provide Viewing Alternatives for All Multimedia

Videos should be captioned. Closed captioning is fine, but consider open captioning (in which the captions are visible by default). Open captioning is valuable to people who are viewing video content in situations where video is muted by default, in addition to helping people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Videos should also be described—a process by which short verbal descriptions of key visual aspects such as the setting, the participants, their actions and facial expressions, are provided to add context. The descriptions are inserted into pauses within a video's dialogue.

Think strategically about your script for videos, to minimize the need for audio description. Try listening to your video without watching it. Does it still make sense? What information is missing, that was only conveyed visually? That's what you need to audio-describe. Learn more at afb.org/videodescription.

Provide transcripts for your audio and video content. Transcripts are an excellent access method for people who are deafblind or hard of hearing, and will also improve your multimedia content's search engine discoverability.

Label Your Forms Properly

Do you want to make sure that constituents who are blind can join your email list, or donate to your campaign? For users who access your site using screen readers, it can be extremely difficult to know what is required in forms. A user moving through an incorrectly marked up form may hear no more than "Edit, edit, edit, radio button not checked, submit button."

But there is an easy fix: valid HTML. Check the comment form to see if it includes "label for" tags. Every element in a form should have its own label.

Learn more about designing accessible web forms.

Don’t Forget About Contrast

This applies to email campaigns and apps, too. Contrast and color use are vital to accessibility for people with low vision. Users, including users with visual disabilities, must be able to perceive content on the page. Try the TPG Colour Contrast Analyser to make sure your contrast passes muster.

Additional Resources

  • Check out AFB's Social Media Accessibility Standards for more details on the accessibility options available on various platforms.
  • 7 Accessibility Tips for Website and App Developers
  • To get the whole picture of what it takes to make a website truly accessible, How to Meet WCAG from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a must. It's a customizable quick reference to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 requirements (success criteria) and techniques.
  • If you need help with getting your website and services where they should be—accessible—AFB Consulting is there to help every step of the way. We've been helping organizations with their disability-inclusion challenges and needs for over 15 years.