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Your Website is (Likely) Non-Compliant

computer, laptop, and tablet

Access to events can be challenged by location, cost, time, accommodations and a myriad of other components. When we plan in-person events, we are limited by a physical venue. If we offer a virtual or hybrid access point, we can remove that barrier of location and travel. When determining costs, there is of course a budget, expenses and profit to keep in mind. In-person events have to cover the venue and meals; virtual events must account for technology platforms and production costs. When we have a live event, time constraints come into play whether it's virtual or in-person. The day and time it occurs, how long the event runs each day and for how many days all has an impact on how easily people can access the event. Those items - and more - are components of ACCESS we consider as event professionals. A part of that access is also accessibility in terms of accommodations or individualized, special needs. Whether attendees come to your event in-person or virtually, providing appropriate accommodations is a critical component of the planning and production process. It starts with awareness, even before someone can register for an event.

Is your website ADA compliant? Can someone get from your main event page all the way through the registration process without barriers? How do you know? Run your website - either your association, organization or event site through a free online accessibility tool. Then work to correct areas of non-compliance with your web developer or designer.

For those of you that are just reading for the first time that ADA applies to the internet, I invite you to explore this in more detail with these readings:

[Author's note: this is the point in writing that I went online to gather the various online links so you can run your site through them to check for compliance, and then my entire train was upended...]

While I certainly didn't mean to stumble upon something this amazing while doing some digging for this article, I want to shout this from the rooftops now that I am aware. We know better, we do better, right? I ran our site, eventgarde.com, through this automated accessibility reporting site: https://ace.accessibe.com. Yes, completely free. Yes, FREE. Are there strings attached? NO! You will likely get a followup email from the company to see if you're interested in what they offer, but before you dismiss them and attempt to DIY your website stuff, HOLD ON PLEASE. Keep reading...

I ran our website through and our compliance score was less than desirable. I quickly turned to my Event Garde teammates so we could begin the process of making sure our website was as compliant as it could be. That takes a lot of time, effort and in many cases, comes with a high website development cost. We needed to have a conversation about how we could work together to tackle all of the things in the report. We know the work is necessary. We NEED to do the RIGHT THING here and be accessible. It does take time. And money. Then I got the call from AccessiBE asking if I had a few minutes to chat and I was intrigued by their reporting so I took the call. And YOU are all welcome because now I get to share this information with you. 

I didn't know anything about their services at the time, I had simply used their free report - I assumed they would try to sell us their development services that would cost us thousands upon thousands of dollars to repair all the issues. Then I was blown away. Shout out to Sharona in Tel Aviv for being a pleasure to talk with about their software, how it works and how EASY it is to make our site compliant. It's not a shortcut, it's not changing our code, it's working alongside our website to provide an exceptional experience for end users that need additional support. And it took less than 10 minutes to install

AND THE PRICE. 

My heart warmed when she showed me pricing. Access shouldn't be costly. Access should be ACCESSIBLE in a variety of ways, including cost. So often, whether it's software like this to help the web experience or something in real life that makes a building accessible (ramps, elevators), it comes at such an astronomical cost, it's a struggle. So much so that there are laws around this so that people shouldn't have to fight for this equity. Although, we all know that there are still plenty of areas people in our society continue to fight for equity and access. One of my kiddos uses a wheelchair when we're out and about due to physical constraints that don't allow him to walk very well or for very long. He's not a full-time wheelchair user and we can still haul him on our back, or have him walk a short distance around/through something, so when we get into sticky situations, we're often able to create our own accommodations for him when a physical place is otherwise restrictive. There are too many families that cannot do this with their family member in a wheelchair, and eventually we won't be able to do it with him, so when something comes along that SOLVES A PROBLEM and doesn't require endless amounts of effort and money - SIGN. ME. UP.

I could easily attempt to explain the entire thing to you, but it is so much better if you explore it and see it in action. Please visit our website [ https://eventgarde.com ] or one of these others to see it on their site (see below) and locate the accessibility icon at the right or left side. On our site, it's blue and in the bottom right corner. Click on it and look at the options it provides. Keep scrolling through ALL the options.

Now, keep in mind, this took LESS THAN TEN MINUTES to install on our site (it's javascript). And that little pop-up doesn't even show you the rest of what happens on the backend through their AI server. For example, a common accessibility thing people overlook when adding content to their site is using ALT text for images and descriptions. When a screen reader is being used by someone with visual impairments, it "reads" images to them. If there is no ALT text or description, the reader just identifies that an image exists. It gives no explanation, no context, it does nothing to help the user understand what this image is and why it's on the site. The AccessiBE AI will scan your site for missing things such as this and using AI, will provide that missing description for the screen reader. If you know anything about website accessibility (or lack of), what it costs to make a website accessible, and to maintain its accessibility over time, your jaw is likely dropping to the floor right now. 

And what are you going to pay for such a service? Before they shared pricing with me, I anticipated this costing thousands of dollars. If your website has over a million pages, it will cost you thousands of dollars - but not how many thousands you think... $3,490 a year. Many of you reading this likely fall into 10,000 pages or less on your website. Cost to you? $1,490 per year. Have less than 1,000 pages? Your cost for this miracle worker is $490/year. Go ahead and pick your jaw up again. 

(How do you know how many pages your website has? Go to google and in the search, type "site:yourdomain.com" - putting YOUR domain there of course - and hit return. The search will tell you how many results there are, which is equivalent to the number of pages indexed on your website.) 

When AccessiBE started talking about the cost of lawsuits that happen due to inaccessible websites, they position this as a no-brainer cost for any company and I'm sure for many, it is. But for me, I wasn't even worried about that - I wanted us to be able to do the RIGHT THING and be accessible not because we HAVE to but because it's the RIGHT THING and we WANT TO. And here they are making it affordable. Virtual hugs to their team!

So how can you get this on your site? Sign up. NO, I am not selling this to you to make a profit off of your organization becoming compliant and accessible. I will disclose that because I do a lot of website work for clients, I personally did sign up as a partner with them. But I don't want to use that position here. That's where you benefit. I would rather see organizations sign up for this and use it than not, so my partner status allows me to either make a 20% commission from you signing up, or give you a 20% discount. And that's what I want to do here. Their product is amazing and it's incredibly simple for your web developer to install on your site. I don't want to make money off you, I want your site and EVERY SITE to be accessible. I feel like I'm on a mission now with this. Tell the world! Now if you would like to pay full price, by all means, be my guest and sign up directly with AccessiBE - and this is NOT my referral/commission link - that's how serious I am about making sure you realize this is about access, not money: https://accessibe.com. For those wanting the 20% discount though, you will have to connect with me and let me know this is what you want and I'll set you up and send you instructions for your web developer; email me at kate@eventgarde.com. 

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