I Live Here I Give Here (ILHIGH) is a nonprofit organization, based in Austin Texas, meant to encourage charitable giving in our city. Every year, they conduct a fundraising initiative for the benefit of Austin’s nonprofit sector. The campaign is called “Amplify Austin”. It is a fantastic initiative. They raised nearly $10 million in 2017! Unfortunately, neither of these websites is accessible to people with disabilities.

We believe in their mission. But because the site isn’t all-inclusive, people with disabilities cannot participate. Nearly 20% of the US population has a disability, making it one of the largest minorities in the country. Since Knowbility’s mission is directly focused on serving people with disabilities, we have a dilemma.

Knowbility chooses not to take part because people with disabilities can’t participate. People with disabilities would like to participate as donors, as volunteers, as staff members setting up campaigns. To shut those people out of supporting causes they believe in is just not right in our view. Inclusion is our raison d’être, our purpose here at Knowbility. In fact, our mission is to improve technology access for people with disabilities. Knowbility has been based in Austin since 1999 and has won many awards, including the 2017 Martha Arbuckle Meritorious Service Award given to Sharron Rush, our Executive Director for “exceptional degree of service to people with disabilities”. As a long standing and important nonprofit based in Austin, we are saddened to have had to make the decision not to participate.

With this in mind, we reached out to Amplify Austin in the past to discuss the issues with them. For three years, we have let them know that barriers exist for our constituents. Other disability organizations have contacted us as well to ask how to manage the issue. Amplify Austin does not deny the problems. They suggested we work with the marketing firm that handles the website. The representative from that firm told us they were aware of accessibility issues, and have been working with another tech firm to fix them. We can only conclude that their consultant either doesn’t understand the importance of accessibility, or isn’t as knowledgeable about this topic as they should be. Because there continues to be a lot of accessibility problems with the site.

The Amplify Austin site, primed to receive donations today and tomorrow, remains unable to accept donations from thousands of Austinites with disabilities. We briefly analyzed it from an accessibility perspective.

Several accessibility issues were easily found

The first issue that immediately jumps at you is the carousel. There are three blocks of content that change automatically, fairly rapidly. This is a problem because:

There is no way to pause or stop the movement.

  1. This makes it difficult for people who are unable to read quickly - the content changes before they’re done reading. It affects people with a variety of impairments such as Traumatic Brain Injuries (they may have received one too many concussion during High School football), dyslexia, or non-native English speakers.

  2. This also makes it difficult for people who are easily distracted, either because they have ADHD (more than 1 in 10 school age children have ADHD. We don’t know how many adults because the studies aren’t counting them. But it is logical to expect that a similar number of adults would have ADHD if they had it as a child), or because they are working in distracting environment such as open plan offices

Poor color contrast

White text against the teal background of many of the elements does not offer enough color contrast. This means people with low vision will have difficulties reading the page. It also means that people trying to read the site on their mobile devices in bright sun will have difficulty reading the site.

Form inputs don’t have labels

There are no labels associated with form elements. This means the purpose of the form input cannot be determined programmatically. This important for people who rely on assistive technologies, such as a screen reader or voice-to-text. If the software cannot determine the purpose of a form element, the visitor won’t know what its purpose is.

Poor alternate text

A lot of people with sight impairments rely on software to “see” images. In other words, their software will announce a text alternative in lieu of the person seeing the image. This text alternative needs to be written up by the site owner or developer. There are many instances of text alternative that is not congruent with the image. For example, the logo of “The CW Austin” has an alt text of “Sponsor 3”. Someone relying on a screen reader to understand what the image is for will not know. This is a great disservice to both the visitor with a disability, and also to the sponsors.

Keyboard traps

It is not possible to go through the entire page using only the keyboard. Someone should be able to go through the entire page using only the TAB key to go forward through all interactive elements. However, there is a keyboard trap. That means that it is not possible to go forward passed a certain point using only the keyboard. This cuts out sighted keyboard-only users as well as screen reader users.

The list goes on

These few barriers were found in a very short time by our accessibility experts. There are many more issues that need to be addressed before the site can be used by people with disabilities. A proper audit should be conducted, and remediation needs to take place.

What next?

The answer we’re aware of the issues and we’re working on it is no longer acceptable.

We can only repeat our offer to work with Amplify Austin, their marketing firm, and their tech firm to improve the campaign’s accessibility so everyone can participate.

We really do hope that every stakeholder involved in this campaign will take accessibility and inclusion seriously and will make every possible effort to make the site accessible to the nearly 1 in 5 people with disabilities who might be interested in taking part in the campaign “I live here, I give here”.