At a time when diversity, equity, and inclusion are considered top priorities by many organizations, accessibility has been critiqued as an “afterthought”. In fact, according to a report from the Return on Disability Group, while 90% of companies surveyed cited diversity as a priority, only 4% included disability as part of that work.
With one billion people in the world estimated to be living with a disability (according to the World Bank)—and everyone benefitting from accessible practices (more on this below)—this is a mistake.
Fortunately, social impact practitioners are waking up. And many of those who are laser-focused on making their programs accessible to all are turning to Submittable. Here’s why Submittable is the best technology partner for organizations seeking to run accessible programs.
What is accessibility?
Before we dive in, a brief definition. Accessibility refers to how easily and effectively a product or service can be accessed and used. Good accessibility means that anyone—regardless of disability or temporary or situational limitations—can use the product and realize the intended value.
Who is Submittable accessible for?
People with disabilities
Submittable is accessible for people with the following kinds of disabilities:
- Visual disabilities including blindness, low vision, or color blindness.
- Auditory disabilities including deafness and hearing loss.
- Cognitive or neurological disabilities including dyslexia, autism, and learning disabilities.
- Mobility disabilities including medical conditions affecting joint and muscle function.
People with temporary or situational limitations
Submitable is also accessible for people experiencing the following kinds of limitations:
- Temporary limitations such as an injury, recovery from an illness, or pregnancy.
- Situational limitations such as intrusive noise, reduced visibility due to brightness or darkness, intense temperature that hinders normal activity, impaired functionality of technology we rely on, or distractions in your environment.
Submittable is accessible for everyone. Here’s why.
First, it’s important to remember that 80% of disabilities are not “apparent”, meaning they do not display physical characteristics. As a rule, you cannot make an assumption about whether someone has a disability based on what you observe.
Consider that all of us, at one point or another, are going to be part of one or both of these groups—whether it’s recovering from an injury, or stuck with slow internet that won’t support video content, or experiencing hearing and vision impairments as we age. While this is not to equate a temporary or situational limitation with living with a disability, it is true that those facing such limitations will benefit from accessible design and best practices intended for people living with disabilities.
Finally, a truth of design is that good accessibility improves usability for everyone. So when we say Submittable is purpose-built to be accessible for the groups identified above, what we’re actually saying is that Submittable is purpose-built to be accessible for everyone.
Why does accessibility matter?
It’s the law
An amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federal agencies, and those that receive federal funding, to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.
The law applies when agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, and stipulates that they must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information comparable to the access available to others.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, government, public accommodations, and other areas.
It’s the right thing to do
One billion people around the world are disabled. By prioritizing accessibility, we empower more people to participate in shaping the world we live in.
It creates better outcomes
Running an accessible program means opening the door to applicants that you want to be able to participate fully because of the contributions they’ll be able to make to your mission and objectives.
It also can lead to reputational benefits. An improved perception of your brand can lead to myriad benefits, from higher profits in the corporate sector, to increased influence for nonprofits, to improved trust among citizens for governments. And across sectors, strong credibility can also help you secure more funding for your future programs.
Our accessibility principles
When it comes to accessibility, Submittable adheres to the following principles.
Our design process keeps users at the forefront, from ideation through to delivery. We advocate for usability and iterate frequently to ensure we’re delivering a high-quality product.
We’re well-versed in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, the global standard. Submittable has a VPAT, or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) which informs our Accessibility Conformance Report. Submittable undergoes a yearly audit with industry-leading accessibility consultant, Deque.
Accessibility is a journey, not a one and done (more on this below). And we’re on this journey with you. That’s why we explore continuous learning opportunities through communities of practice.
For instance, our Director of Design, Lauren Ambielli Cardoni, is a professional member of IAAP which is the International Association of Accessibility Professionals. Through IAAP, Lauren is pursuing CPACC (Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies) and WAS (Web Accessibility Specialist) certifications. Lauren leads a team of product designers who share her passion and technical expertise.
Additionally, Submittable has a cross-functional team that meets regularly to ensure our people, resources, and strategic initiatives remain consistent with evolving accessibility best practices.
Submittable’s approach to accessibility
Sometimes, accessibility is built technically into the product, and doesn’t need any assistance. Other times, creating an accessible experience depends on the choices you make as the program administrator.
At Submittable, we take a holistic approach to setting our customers up to run accessible programs, which includes both technical functionality of our product as well as guidance from our team.
The innate capabilities that determine the experience applicants have on our product are evaluated for our VPAT.
The technical functionality that supports accessibility is extensive, and some of it is…highly technical. With that in mind, here’s a high-level look at some of the technical aspects of the product that provide good accessibility:
- Auto-save functionality
- The ability to include granular instructions at the organization, project, and form form field level
- Support for headers (H1, H2, H3, etc.) across text only fields and project guidelines
- Support for 70+ types of file uploads
- Screen reader compatibility
- A clear, simple design
- General ease of use
Guidance from our team
While technical functionality can get you far, certain aspects of creating an accessible experience for your applicants will be up to you as the program administrator. Choices you make, language you use, and questions that you include can all help create a more accessible experience for your applicants.
We know many of our customers share our commitment to accessibility. But not everyone knows exactly how to build it into their program. Indeed, accessibility is a space that constantly evolves as we, as both a tech and human community, get better—so it’s important not to assume that you always have the answers (and we make an effort to do the same).
We are here to help, though. Our implementation, customer success, and technical support teams have all undergone training and have access to extensive resources to help our customers follow accessibility best practices throughout your programs. Whether you are brand new and working with your implementation specialist to kick off for the first time, checking in with your customer success manager as you contemplate a fresh start to a program, or reaching out to customer support when you run into a hiccup along the way, we’re here to help you get it right.
We may not always immediately know the right move in every given circumstance, but we’re equipped to help you figure it out. And as mentioned above, as a company, we’ve committed to keeping the conversation about accessibility front of mind, so that as better and more inclusive practices emerge, we’ll be prepared to help you put them into place.
Accessibility in action
Here are just a few examples of how Submittable partners with you to run accessible programs.
Diverse styles of communication
Grant applications commonly rely on narrative form entry. This can be a barrier for those with disabilities affecting written communication. With Submittable, you can leverage the file upload field in place of, or as an alternative to, narrative data fields as a way to allow applicants to communicate in their preferred medium, such as through video or audio channels.
Our team can advise you on how to set up your application to be inclusive of diverse communication styles.
Auto-save and editing
For individuals with disabilities impacting their ability to focus or sit in one place for a period of time, filling out a grant application can be intimidating or exhausting. With built-in saved drafts, applicants are put at ease knowing that they can complete the form in the time they need. They can take breaks and return back knowing their progress is saved.
Additionally, Submittable allows for editing, which relieves the pressure to get everything exactly right. Applicants who make a mistake can easily request to make the change later, without having to resubmit the entire application.
For many applicants, such as in rural areas or for homeless populations, accessing reliable internet connection can pose a barrier to filling out online forms on a laptop or desktop. Submittable is mobile-friendly, allowing these applicants to fill out forms on the phone. This also benefits everyone who may simply prefer to fill out an application on their phone, or who may be dealing with a temporary internet outage.
In instances when using a mobile device is also not an option or a preferred method, Submittable also facilitates manual uploads, giving program managers the ability to input content on behalf of an applicant that may have been received on paper or communicated in person or to a social worker or other third party.
Whether you’re a government employee hoping to lead the way for your peers (and feeling pressure to comply with legislation), a foundation seeking to more fully serve your community, or a CSR leader responsible for running inclusive initiatives, focusing on accessibility is something all social impact professionals can agree on. Submittable is here to help you do it. Contact our sales team to learn more.
My gratitude to my brilliant colleague Lauren Ambielli Cardoni for her leadership on this issue and her specific contributions to this post.