Making Our Website More Accessible
December 3rd is the International Day of People with Disabilities. The United Nations launched the annual celebration in 1992. The International Day of People with Disabilities website says the day is an opportunity to understand the experiences of those living with disabilities, to “recognize and value the diversity of our global community, and to cherish the role we all play, regardless of our abilities.”
In working side by side with communities to build an equitable future for everyone, United Way of King County strives to celebrate the achievements and to address the challenges of people with disabilities. The latter can be seen on our uwkc.org website, which was recently relaunched after an extensive effort to make it more accessible and user-friendly to all.
We are proud that our website has been upgraded to align with the standards of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which were created by the Massachusetts-based Worldwide Web Consortium to make the Internet more accessible and secure. The result has been a United Way site with hundreds of new features, fonts, and capabilities, dozens of new languages, and voice-to-text options—all while maintaining its easy navigation. We sat down with United Way marketing director Archana Verma and web developer/UX strategist Jaymes Taylor to learn more.
United Way of King County: What were the origins of United Way’s efforts to make our site more accessible to people with disabilities?
Jaymes Taylor: The origins come from the refresh of our current site, looking at the fact that at least 25% of people in the United States live with a disability and less than 3% of all websites are fully accessible. With those statistics in mind, and especially with the fact that since COVID more than 50% of people have been coming to our site looking for help, we wanted to make sure that our site was accessible.
Archana Verma: When we think about United Way’s core beliefs, our mission is that we are focused on an equitable future for everyone. When you think about an equitable future, it’s for people with different intersecting identities. When you think about intersectionality, having a digital presence that creates a sense of belonging and welcomes people of all abilities is core.
United Way of King County: When we say “accessibility” at United Way of King County, what does that mean for a user from the moment that person logs onto our site?
Jaymes Taylor: That means that, regardless of how they are trying to access the site, they can get the information that’s there—whether that’s through voice-to-speech, translation for people for whom English is not a first language, contrast options, even font faces for those with dyslexia, so they can see the information easily.
United Way of King County: What does such an endeavor entail from start to finish?
Jaymes Taylor: It began with an audit of our current site, figuring out what was up to standard with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. That includes images having alternative texts for speech readers, the ability to magnify text, language translations, and making sure there is enough contrast between the font and the background color so folks can see it.
While we were doing that, we were speaking to different third-party accessibility experts who provide resources for websites. And we have decided to use Recite Me, an organization that has worked with local organizations here. They have a website accessibility toolbar that we have implemented on our current site. It has over 60 different language translations to text and speech. It has options to change the font displays, it can remove images for folks who might want more of a focus view. It even has a dictionary that can highlight words and tell you the meaning of the word.
United Way of King County: How does a user access these tools on our site?
Archana Verma: Anyone who comes to the website can access this by clicking on Accessibility Tools, which is also at the bottom of every page. The Accessibility Tools page explains ways in which people can engage with the organization through our website.
United Way of King County: Can you talk about the new language translations?
Archana Verma: The language translations are something we are super excited about, especially when we consider that almost half of the visitors to our website are people who might be looking for ways to get involved or seeking information about our programs.
We [also] have text-to-voice options and options for changing font sizes and colors. You can also download the text as an MP3 file so you can play it offline. And we’ve included a Recite Me video (below) that shows how people can use the features on the site.
United Way of King County: How does all of this differ from what our previous site offered?
Jaymes Taylor: Our previous site had very specific targeted pages that we translated into different languages. They were very limited in language offerings and they had to be updated every time we updated the pages. This new feature is built in and is inherent to the site. And it has many more options on the language capacity and the different features as well.
United Way of King County: How will you gauge feedback about the site?
Jaymes Taylor: We’ll be looking at different analytics. I would love to have more continuous user testing on the site of external users, to see if what we’ve done resonates and if there is anything we can do to improve accessibility from there.