Great news: our website gets a much-needed refresh this month (we will launch mid-Feb, stay tuned)! We haven’t done a major overhaul of our digital home since 2017. But in keeping with our value of inclusion, we wanted to make sure our site was welcoming to all. We made some much-needed web accessibility updates to our online Camp Fire presence. Here’s why…
What is web accessibility?
Web accessibility means making sure people of all abilities can access the web. The internet leaps over the barriers many people with disabilities experience in the physical world, but it also creates a few more. Web accessibility considers how people with differing abilities (auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech and visual) interact online. It works to open digital doors, so everyone is included.
Web accessibility isn’t just the kind, inclusive thing to do. Under the Americans with Disabilities act, web accessibility is the law for businesses with websites. How do we know what is accessible and not? The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created web accessibility standards that anyone creating online spaces can follow through its W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
How is Camp Fire working toward web accessibility?
“Beyond just meeting the standards, it’s really about having accessibility and inclusion integrated from the inside out,” says Kerri Voyles, Flourish Creative founder and web accessibility expert. “Is our website clearly guiding users of all different abilities on an understandable journey?”
Kerri has been helping Camp Fire develop an inclusive web strategy and create an accessible framework for its national site. That accessible framework, or theme, can be used by Camp Fire councils for their sites as well.
“I’ve been partnering with Camp Fire on leveling up the digital presence in an inclusive and authentic way,” Kerri said. “I think it’s really great that they’re investing in this upgrade, and that they’re doing it intentionally and strategically.”
What kinds of things make the web more accessible?
It takes the entire online ecosystem working together to increase web accessibility, including the tools we use to get information online (web browsers, media players, adaptive tech, etc.) and the ways we create and share information online (website software, web development, content creation, etc.).
What does that actually mean? Here are just a few examples of W3Cs’s web accessibility standards:
- Using text alternatives —like image/icon labels, alt tags, and graphic/illustration descriptions — to increase access for people with different visual abilities.
- Providing text captions, audio descriptions, or sign language interpretation for multimedia content.
- Making sure your site can be understood by a variety of assistive technologies (like screen magnifiers and readers, Braille displays, and more).
- Making content easy to see and hear, including accessible visual contrast, resizable text, adjustable audio, and more.
- Ensuring users can navigate your site in different ways, including by keyboard, assistive keyboards, voice recognition, and more.
What is changing on the Camp Fire national site?
“On the technical side of things, there was an opportunity for greater organization structurally on the back end, like using headings and alt tags correctly,” Kerri said. “On the front end, we honed in on clarifying and simplifying that journey. As communicators, it’s really about increasing comprehension.”
Kerri explained that many things can help visitors better understand the information we share online. One is making sure our language is clear and simple: The average U.S. adult reads at a junior-high level. Another is considering visual elements, like color contrast, that affect how people with differing sight and neurological abilities comprehend information.
The site relaunch changes you might notice (and those on the back end that you won’t) are all in the service of helping more people connect with Camp Fire online. In the coming year, Camp Fire will be helping support our councils’ web accessibility efforts with training and other resources. And we’ll continue to make updates as our web accessibility knowledge grows and new digital tools and spaces emerge.
“There’s no such thing as perfect accessibility,” Kerri said. “We constantly need to be evolving and adapting. The standards a year from now will not be the standards of today.”
What can you do to increase web accessibility?
Even if you’re not a web designer or programmer, Kerri says there are ways you can help increase online access for all:
- Be a digital inclusion advocate! Not everyone has the financial resources to own digital devices or pay for reliable internet services. Get involved with organizations that work for digital equity, like The Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion.
- If you notice a web accessibility roadblock, let the site owner know! “Don’t be afraid to reach out to organizations and provide that feedback loop,” Kerri encouraged.
- Use simple, clear language when you’re communicating online.
Want to know more about web accessibility? Here are some resources to get you started:
- Web Accessibility Fundamentals from W3C
- Web Contrast Checker from WebAIM
- Web Literacy Resources from Health.gov