Digitally accessible engagement tools can help strengthen bonds between government and citizens. This is the main aim of federal and state agencies going forward.
A survey was conducted by the Center for Digital Government (CDG) among local government agencies. Accessible communication tools like captions during virtual events increase public participation.
Government agencies can use accessible digital tools to secure a digital future. One, in which municipalities can engage with their citizens better and provide an accessible experience for those with disabilities.
In this blog we will take a look at:
- Accessibility laws
- Accessible features for state and local government websites
- Voluntary action plan for accessible websites
- Strategies to guide state and local government agencies digital accessibility efforts
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act) was signed in 1990 to prohibit disability-based discrimination against mental and physical medical conditions.
ADA legislation mandates reasonable accommodations in the realm of employment, public entities (i.e. local and state government), public accommodations, and telecommunications.
While the Act broadly mandates accessibility for disabled people, lately, it has come to encompass web accessibility as well.
The Act is a 1998 amendment to the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It requires Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.
The standards apply to software and operating systems, intranet and internets, computers, and other technology products used by federal agencies. As of January 2018, Section 508 requires federal agencies to adhere to WCAG 2.0 standards.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
WCAG was developed with the goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility. It must meet the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.
WCAG 2.0 was published on 11 December 2008, requiring web content to be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. It must accommodate users with visual, hearing, mobility, cognitive, and language needs.
Both these Acts require state and local governments to provide people with disabilities, equal access to their services.
One way to help meet these requirements is to ensure that government websites have accessible features for people with disabilities. An agency with an inaccessible website can meet its legal obligations by providing an alternative format for citizens.
Accessible features for state and local government websites
Accessible features on a website will ensure that citizens can use the programs or services.
Alt text for images
Screen readers used by people with disabilities cannot read an image without its description. Provide alternate text for all images and graphics on the website and web content.
For example, a person with a visual impairment cannot access a photograph of a mayor on a website. Providing an alt text that identifies the name of the mayor will give a disabled person equal access to information.
When navigation links are used, people who use a screen reader must listen to all the links before proceeding. A skip navigation link provides a way to bypass the row of navigation links by jumping to the start of the web page content.
When tables with header and row identifiers are used to display data, the header and row data should be associated with each data cell by using HTML.
Provide captions and audio descriptions for videos to make them accessible to people with hearing impairments.
Provide properly labeled fields, simple navigation, logical organization, and keyboard accessibility to allow people with disabilities to navigate and interact with online forms.
Putting a coherent plan into action
Voluntary Action Plan for Accessible Websites
- Establish a policy that your web pages will be accessible and create a process for implementation.
- Ensure that all new and modified web pages and content are accessible. Make sure that accessible elements are used, including alt tags, long descriptions, and captions, as needed.
- If images are used, including photos, graphics, scanned images, or image maps, make sure to include alt tags and/or long descriptions for each.
- If you use online forms and tables, make those elements accessible and develop a plan for making your existing web content more accessible.
- Describe your plan on an accessible web page and encourage input on improvements, including which pages should be given high priority for change.
- Ensure that in-house staff and contractors responsible for web page and content development are properly trained.
- Provide a way for visitors to request accessible information or services by posting a telephone number or E-mail address on your home page.
- Establish procedures to assure a quick response to users with disabilities who are trying to obtain information or services in this way.
- Periodically enlist disability groups to test your pages for ease of use; use this information to increase accessibility.
Strategies to guide the digital accessibility efforts of State and Local Governments
Drive community through integrated solutions
State and local governments often use digital tools during isolated moments of contact with their constituents, such as making a payment or enrolling in a program. By integrating accessible tools with other systems and applications, governments can improve user experience.
Engage residents together
When trying new accessible engagement methods, government leaders should embrace opportunities to collect feedback from citizens.
Integrating this data into easy-to-read dashboards tailored to a department’s mission or goals also gives leaders information on how a solution or engagement channel is performing.
Government leaders should adopt an entrepreneurial spirit when implementing engagement tools.
Educating staff on constituent engagement trends and best practices — through classes, white papers, webinars and other training — can help organizations move in the right direction. Agencies can also bring in experts to share actionable insights and help them deploy digital engagement tools thoughtfully.
Engage residents together
Effective digital engagement strategies that promote accessibility bring citizens together and promote a sense of community. The goal is to engage residents to understand and serve them better — and engagement strategies must consider all residents, including people with disabilities.
codemantra is a leading Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) Solutions Provider. Its AI-driven platform automates digital document accessibility compliance; captures, classifies, and extracts data; and transforms documents into any output format.
How codemantra helps?
Digital files in various formats, including PDFs, Word, PPT, etc., have to meet federal accessibility standards like ADA, Section 508, and WCAG 2.1 Level AA guidelines. The ever-increasing need to meet accessibility requirements and compliance mandates the presence of a robust, scalable solution.
codemantra’s accessibilityInsight™, is designed to assist state and local government agencies with their federal government mandated 508 compliance requirements. The AI-powered platform can help reduce the amount of time needed to attain 508 compliance and WCAG AA standards.
The multi-phase document accessibility program involves:
- Assess: Complete compliance assessment and detailed reporting.
- Plan: Prioritization of assets and determination of internal, external, or hybrid remediation approach.
- Document processing: Machine-learning and AI-assisted processing merged with human-assisted review and alt text writing.
- Report: Confirm PDF U/A and WCAG compliance and generate a compliance report.
State and local governments can enhance engagement with their constituents by accessible engagement stState and local governments can enhance engagement by accessible engagement strategies to include people with disabilities and not just the able-bodied citizens.