Local Governments Still Don’t Quite Understand Federal Web Accessibility Rules



Connecting state and local government leaders

89 percent of local government leaders recently surveyed had little or no knowledge of the requirements for digital accessibility.

A poorly designed local government website may be more than just an eyesore, it may prevent citizens and public sector employees with disabilities from being able to fully participate in civic life.

Recently, as Route Fifty previously reported, the federal government has been paying closer attention to cases where local government websites fail to meet the standards set by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 2015 saw a significant uptick in web accessibility-related settlement agreements compared with previous years.

Yet, building an accessible digital presence, or even understanding what that process might entail, is something many county and municipal governments continue to struggle with.

A recent survey conducted by Vision, an El Segundo, California-based firm that creates web tools for the public sector, found that 89 percent of the 140 government respondents had moderate, weak or no knowledge whatsoever of federal accessibility requirements.

At the same time, local government leaders do seem to understand the inherent importance of web accessibility—the issue ranked in the top three areas that survey respondents predicted would have an impact in 2016.

Along with these survey results, Vision has also released a Digital Accessibility Checklist to help local governments identify gaps in their web services and better respond to the needs of citizens and employees with a wide range of disabilities.

The checklist touches on both the technological elements of digital accessibility–like adding “alternative text” to images for users with visual impairments–as well as the capacity-based factors of a well-rounded accessibility strategy, like the need to hire a dedicated accessibility coordinator.

Vision’s checklist emphasizes, however, that accessibility is not a one-off kind of issue. Maintaining an accessible website is an ongoing, iterative process that must be a priority for all local governments.

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Quinn Libson writes for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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