Digital Accessibility: JCCs Digital Inclusion

Kimberly Springs

Jeff Rodgers

September 23 8 min read

By Kimberly Spriggs Sept. 23, 2022

When you think about community what do you think of? The unique differences that make up that community as a whole?

In past blogs we’ve discussed the significance Digital Accessibility has on individuals, businesses, and the communities they serve, especially the disabled community. If the American with Disabilities Act taught us one thing, it is to open up access to everyone, including digital experiences for users of various abilities.

One community minded group the Jewish Community Centers, or the JCC Digital Co-op. Throughout the years, the JCC has delivered accessibility accommodations for their members here in the states, and Canada, and they understand the value of community and inclusion, but digital inclusion needs to be addressed to complete the package.

Some of the co-ops have done a phenomenal job of stepping up their digital accessibility footprint, while others in the JCC Digital Co-op are slower to accommodate. One particular area they need to focus more attention on is online compliance. If all the centers are to work seamlessly, things like websites, mobile apps, registrations, membership management, and donations need to be easy to access for all of their members, including those with disabilities.

How can the JCC focus collectively on their level of digital accessibility? By focusing on what their online community needs, developing a digital accessibility plan, and working towards compliance.

Equal Access for all JCC Digital Resources

Under the ADA (by law) the JCC buildings are required to be physically accessible, new DOJ standards coming out, soon websites will have to be too. By aligning JCC digital resources and making digital assets accessible they JCC will be positioning themselves to be ahead of the market, offering more to their communities, and standing out.

Digital accessibility can be confusing to those just learning about it. With WCAG standards changing again this year to WCAG 2.2, it is difficult to understand if you are complying or not. It can be time consuming too and costly to remediate. But are the costs too high for the human value it upholds? Costs that down the line will pay it forward? If digital accessibility is to be addressed it needs to be done right. Preferably at the beginning but it can be remediated too. For it to be done correctly, it needs to be handled by trained professionals.

The importance of the JCC to have an inclusive, robust digital presence that has the same forethought as their physical ADA initiatives is a worthy goal. Having that accessible design let’s their users and members know they take into consideration the value of both physical and digital spaces.

Nonprofits’ are not immune to digital accessibility lawsuits

Nearly a thousand digital accessibility lawsuits have been filed so far this year, with predictions that cases may top over four thousand by years end. Nonprofits’ are not immune to digital accessibility lawsuits.

Currently, web accessibility legal issues are unpredictable. The Department of Justice published its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and that it plans to amend Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with new website accessibility regulations. The DOJ has long held that websites must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act because they are a place of public accommodation. Certain legal aspects to consider:

Many courts found that websites and digital assets are subject to comply with the ADA if there is a link between physical locations and their websites or digital assets and if that connection can be established.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires certain businesses to make accommodations for people with disabilities. Digital resources should be accessible to users with physical disabilities, deaf or hard of hearing users, braille users, and those who are blind and low-vision users who must navigate by voice, screen readers or other assistive technologies.

Protections for people with disabilities

Some courts findings are if a website meets the description as a place of public accommodation these businesses must comply with the ADA, regardless of if a physical location exists.

The JCC website will need to comply with the ADA for the online forms for booking events or services, making reservations, and purchasing goods if users cannot navigate, they will likely be found non-compliant.

If any JCC receives government or public funding they must comply, by law, with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (revised in 2017). This requires conformance with WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines (soon WCAG 2.2). Again, to make certain their digital properties are meeting the same accessibility standards as their physical spaces.

Jewish Tradition Demonstrates Inclusion

When everyone in the community can gather and enjoy the richness of family and friends, to participate in religious and public life together, as a whole – this is inclusion.Still there are barriers some do not see, like those in the digital world that bar those valued members of the community from enjoying these experiences fully.

“Do not separate yourself from the community; accordingly, we must prevent anyone from being separated from the community against their will.” (Pirke Avot 2:5)

Being separated from the community can be easily missed, and remember, disabilities can be short-term too. For instance, a broken arm, after surgeries and rehabilitation trying to manage a mouse or keyboard, or a new mom holding her baby, struggling to navigate a drop-down menu on her cell phone. The elderly need to access larger fonts and easier user interfaces. So many people in the digital world have different abilities and needs and a compliant website or app that offers that inclusion – is valuable.

Simply accessing things like banking, paying bills, online healthcare, online grocery services, or paying memberships is harder to access or isn’t as easy to navigate for people with disabilities. Having the compassion and obligation to remove these stumbling blocks; this is a cornerstone of Judaism and why their communities care so deeply for the rights of people with disabilities.

When you have a website fully accessible – whether it be mobile access, registration, booking pages, donation forms, ticket sales, checkout, payment systems, and all the other online access – they all need to be compliant.

Failure to develop and maintain an ADA-compliant website could target a business for lawsuits, financial liabilities, and damage to the brands’ reputation, but a compliant one will perform better and meet the needs of all the community members.

Accessibility and Usability for Everyone

An accessible website is a usable website. Especially when it comes to accessing a site on a mobile device. Let’s look at the benefits accessibility has in our daily lives:

Permanent Disabilities. When we think about disability, those with permanent disabilities are the ones that come to mind. With 20% of our population identified as having a permanent disability, it is so important to not exclude that large of a group in our population. 

Temporary Disabilities. As I mentioned before, most of us have experienced this at some point in our life. Maybe broken limbs, hand injuries, or short term impairments following surgery or medical treatments are temporary disabilities.  

Situational Disabilities. Ever try and respond to a text while carrying groceries or say that mom holding her baby? If you are using your non-dominant hand, almost impossible. All of us have been in a situation that impacts our ability to use an app or website, especially with a mobile device.

Benefits of Digital Accessibility for the JCC

There is a caveat to have an accessible website, they load faster, perform better, are easier to use, and can also improve SEO rankings. Basically, the site can outperform the competition and rank higher.

At the heart of the topic remains the disabled (differently abled) persons who are a central part of a loyal community, that same community the JCCs concentrate their efforts on helping. While 98% of most websites are not accessible, sites that are conscientiously becoming accessible are valued and supported more by both non-disabled and disabled persons. The disability community is the largest minority group in the world, with 1 in 5 (1:5) or over 20% being defined as having some type of a disability. With that number, and loyal base, you get the best advertising there is; free, word-of-mouth advertising! The best part, the really feel-good part… it is the right thing to do.

Digital Access for JCCs Around the World

With the Jewish Community Centers in the US, Canada, and around the world providing their invaluable services based on the inclusion of all people, regardless of their limitations is noble and right. The JCC Digital Co-op should strive in tandem on making a full push towards full digital accessibility across the board. The priority that their existing digital assets and future ones are modified and remain accessible.

With NP Group (NPG) agency focus behind us, our work here at Accessiblü as the arm of accessibility for them and many of their valued clients. Creating accessible deliverables and remediation for businesses who are seeking to open up their platforms to everyone – is what we are all about.

Please visit www.jccdigitalcoop.com for more information about the co-op and how it works.