Accessibility Beyond the Building: How to Make Your Brand Welcoming for All

Although almost all buildings in the United States follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements passed in 1990, most "digital storefronts" (aka websites) are still far from accessible.

Illustration by Lauren Atherton

I’m a survivor of two open-heart surgeries and affected by Loeys-Dietz syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that can cause people physical and cognitive disabilities as well as daily limitations. One of the points of concern in this body I have a love-hate relationship with – is that it’s constantly deteriorating. About two months ago, my greatest fear happened in real life. I temporarily went blind in my right eye.

Yep, no vision for 20 minutes in my right money-maker. 

While this temporary experience thoroughly freaked me out, it also woke me up to how inaccessible most nonprofit brands, and websites, are in 2022. And while online accessibility may seem minor to able-bodied folks, there are a lot more people – and thus potential donors, followers and volunteers – affected than you may think!

According to the CDC, “62 million adults in the United States live with a disability. A disability is any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).” 

Although almost all buildings in the United States have been made to be more accessible since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, most of our modern “public spaces” or websites are still far from accessible. Issues with color use, readability, sizing, graphics, font legibility, navigation – these can shut the door on some folks trying to visit your website.

There are now digital standards for accessibility, with a whole litany of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards and requirements developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). These standards are constantly updated but rarely enforced. Sadly, they’re mostly used as a quick crash grab by companies looking to lay down an easy lawsuit and move on. 

Simply put, accessibility is empathy in action – ensuring that everyone can easily access and understand information, whether in-person or online.

While DEI (diversity, equity & inclusion) is a popular topic – rightfully so – in mass media culture and business,  digital accessibility for people with disabilities has been pushed to the backburner. Simply put, accessibility is empathy in action – ensuring that everyone can easily access and understand information, whether in-person or online.


Getting Started with Accessibility

If you’re concerned about the accessibility of your brand, here are three key areas to evaluate first so your brand is one step closer to legal (and social) compliance. These three aspects of your brand should be updated online first, since most people are visiting your nonprofit’s “digital home” before they ever walk into your offices or attend an event. 

  1. Website
    • Every line of text on your website should be editable or “live text” – not only for design’s sake, but also to enable screen readers to crawl your website. (Screen-what?? If that sounds like sci-fi mumbo-jumbo, send me a message and I can get you up to speed on screen readers.) Text over images can be a fun and effective design feature, but make sure you have a good amount of contrast behind the text to make it legible. In the case of your website and accessibility, form should always follow function. 
    • Pro tip: If you use a lot of flat text on images, then your website may not be mobile-friendly. Take a look at your nonprofit’s site from your phone and notice how small the text on images gets online – yikes! Consider adding “alt text” to every image on your website so that it can be scanned by screen readers. Keep it simple and descriptive of the image. Plus, this is great for SEO (search engine optimization)!
  2. Email Signature
    • This may be an unlikely place to start with accessibility for your brand, but your “digital business card” is likely the touchpoint you use most often. In your email signature, you should include a photo of yourself, name, title, email address, and phone number. 
    • Pro tip: Use Sentence Case for your email addresses rather than all lowercase. is easier to read than, plus if you have a complicated organizational name (ahem, like HeartSpark) where readers can mix up the letters to make new words like Hearts Park or Hear TS Park, this format makes it easier to get it right.
  3. Logo
    • Updating your logo may be a more involved process for most organizations, but it’s important to note that most nonprofit logos are difficult to read and way too busy. The best fonts for readability online are sans-serif fonts and the best for print are serif fonts. Avoid cursive, except for a logo. 
    • Pro tip: If your logo has a tiny tagline below the logomark, ditch it! Especially online where you can add more context to the brand and the logo is probably super small anyway.

Designing for accessibility is no longer optional – and don’t assume that it takes the fun out of branding! Inclusive design doesn’t necessarily equate to safe, boring, or amateur styles. In fact, it might just lead to a better, cleaner, more iconic look for your nonprofit. 

As nonprofit leaders, let’s show the way by building awesome brands that are also accessible for 20% of the world’s population affected by disabilities. We believe nonprofit brands can be both accessible and beautiful, especially when there’s a larger mission at stake.

Looking to make your website accessible ASAP?

If you’re looking to start with making your website accessible, we’ve partnered with an incredible platform called accessiBe that wants to make the internet accessible to everyone by 2025. Their accessWidget not only puts that happy little icon on your website, but it also simplifies and streamlines the process of becoming WCAG and ADA compliant using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computer vision. Ready to find out how compliant your website is?

Get a Free Accessibility Audit →

If you want to learn more about web accessibility, check out the following resources:


Disclaimer: We know is not fully accessible and are working towards making the proper changes to bring it into compliance.