Vanilla & Accessible Online Communities

3 minute read

April 12, 2022

Vanilla & Accessible Online Communities

When you think about accessibility, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For many, the first thing that pops in their head is something to do with a physical space. That makes a lot of sense. For many years there’s been a large emphasis on making any number of physical spaces like schools, places of work, and other gathering spots, available to those who are differently abled. 

However, accessibility challenges aren’t solely limited to the physical world. The digital world has lots of challenges when it comes to accessibility, too. Since accessibility online can oftentimes be much more subtle, it can be harder to recognize than it is in the physical world. In fact, one study found that only 2% of the top one million websites in the world are fully accessible.  

Though accessibility should be a priority for all digital real estate, there are some digital properties that will suffer more than others without it. One prime example being online communities. 

Here at Vanilla, we realize the importance of accessibility for all and we’re continuously working to improve our offering to meet WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines. Let’s dig into why you should too.

Why accessibility is important for online communities

At their core, online communities are a place for people from all walks of life to come together and share thoughts, ideas, solutions, and support. In order to create an environment where that’s possible, you need people from a variety of backgrounds. 

A little over 15% of the population – which is over 1 billion people – live with some sort of disability. That means no matter what industry you’re in, chances are if your online community isn’t accessible, there’s someone who wants to join that isn’t able to.  

Each time someone’s not able to access your online community, you lose a valuable perspective that could shed light on a solution, or issue, that you might otherwise miss. Realistically, a community is only as strong as the members that make it up. If you’re leaving people out, the community as a whole will suffer.

How to make your online community more accessible

If you want to have a truly inclusive community you need to take steps toward accessibility. Achieving full accessibility is a big undertaking. That said, there are steps you can start taking right now to start down the path toward accessibility.

Having a truly inclusive community means making it accessible for all who may want to join. Getting to full accessibility can seem a bit daunting, but you shouldn’t see it as an all or nothing proposition. Instead, you should take it one step at a time, with each step moving toward the ultimate goal of complete accessibility.

Below are a few ways you can get started: 

  • Pay attention to your contrast ratio 

  • Create audio versions of posts/ guides 

  • Add closed-captions to videos

  • Include alt-text for images 

  • Purchase tools with accessibility tools built in

  • Make pages screen-reader friendly

 

Here at Vanilla we actually worked with a consulting agency called Level Access to do an accessibility audit to better understand where we could improve and some ideas to get started. So, if you’re feeling stuck, that’s another route you can go to get started. 

Moving forward

Accessibility isn’t a trend. It’s the way of the future. The sooner you start investing, the sooner you’ll be able to welcome even more people into your communities, and benefit from a wider variety of perspectives. No one expects you to be perfect overnight, but you should continually take positive steps toward full accessibility. 

As for us at Vanilla, know that our efforts are ongoing as we implement the relevant improvements to meet WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines over time. These improvements will be made to our Foundation theme framework. If you do encounter an accessibility issue, please be sure to specify the page and open a support ticket at [email protected]. We will make all reasonable efforts to make that page accessible.

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Nuala Cronin

Written by Nuala Cronin

Nuala is the Content Marketing Manager at Vanilla by Higher Logic. She has adored writing since a young age and graduated with a Master's Degree in Publishing and Literature from the National University of Ireland, Galway.

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