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Accessibility: Five Facts to Know
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of adults aged 18 to 64 who have a disability is 10 percent. For the growing number of people over age 65, the estimate is as high as 50 percent. As a result, it’s important for associations to think about designing their programs and services so they are accessible for all members. This issue is becoming more visible due to increases in regulatory changes, lawsuits and media attention. While many associations already place importance on inclusivity and diversity, accessibility — both physical and digital — is an important area for boards to consider. Following are five things to know about accessibility:

1. Accessibility pervades the member experience. It encompasses everything from an association’s event to its website, and can include components such as travel to the event, hotel accommodations and how information is provided. Associations should strive to make their in-person and digital content available to all. For example, your professional staff can:
  • Arrange customer service support so phones are answered by actual human beings;
  • Structure physical events to be mindful of those who may have a disability; and
  • Provide multiple ways to access digital information, such as an option with contrasting colors for those who are color blind or a podcast transcript for those with hearing impairments.
2. The topic of accessibility is in the spotlight. There are increasing efforts by the U.S. and other governments around the world to mandate that products and services — including all websites and digital platforms — be accessible. It’s likely that associations will soon be held fully accountable for meeting these standards and guidelines.

3. Accessibility is good business. By ensuring that all members can access your association’s content and services, you can increase participation and engagement. Furthermore, the adjustments that make it possible for people with disabilities to participate can also enhance the experience for other members. For example, larger text on a website — which is an accommodation for members with visual impairments — can make the pages easier to view for all members and provide a more pleasant experience overall.

4. The need for accessibility is growing. Because the number of those in the U.S. with a disability is increasing, boards that focus on these efforts now will find themselves keeping technology and events up-to-date with the changing needs of members.

5. Accessibility is manageable. Accessibility professionals and resources are available to help. Government entities such as the United States Access Board and the United States Department of Justice provide a wealth of information, training and educational resources about accessibility standards and requirements. Professional organizations such as the Assistive Technology Industry Association, International Association of Accessibility Professionals and US Business Leadership Network can connect associations with accessibility consulting companies and technical experts who can help audit and update association offerings, assisting with everything from conference planning to website design.
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SEPTEMBER 2016 EDITION
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Board Forward is published 10 times a year by SmithBucklin, the association management and services company more organizations turn to than any other. SmithBucklin has served volunteer board members for more than 60 years.

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