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Introduction

Local government websites are mandated by law to have accessible digital content for citizens living with disabilities. Ensuring local government website is accessible to all citizens needs to be a top priority for every government agency.

For local governments thinking about an accessible website, it’s time to familiarize with all things related to website accessibility.

Online services offered by Local Governments

The Internet is dramatically changing the way that American government serves the public. Many State and local governments are using the web to offer citizens a host of services including:

  • Corresponding online with local officials;
  • Providing information about government services;
  • Renewing library books or driver’s licenses;
  • Providing tax information and accepting tax returns; and
  • Applying for jobs or benefits.

These government websites are important because they:

  • Allow programs and services to be offered in a more dynamic, interactive way, increasing citizen participation;
  • Increase convenience and speed in obtaining information or services;
  • Reduce costs in providing programs and information about government services;
  • Reduce the amount of paperwork; and
  • Expand the possibilities of reaching new sectors of the community or offering new programs.

Online Barriers Faced By People with Disabilities

Many people with disabilities use “assistive technology” to enable them to use computers and access the Internet.

Many people with disabilities use “assistive technology” to enable them to use computers and access the Internet.

Poorly designed websites can create unnecessary barriers for people with disabilities. One example would be a photograph of a Mayor on a town website with no text identifying it.

A text that reads Photograph of Mayor Jane Smith” will allow the blind user to make sense of the image.

Accessible Design Benefits Everyone

Websites with accessible features are more convenient and more available to everyone – including users with disabilities.

Content creators can provide online forms, PDFs, etc., in an accessible format to make even complex web pages usable by everyone.

For most websites, implementing accessibility features is not difficult and will seldom change the layout or appearance of web pages.

With the rapid changes in the Internet and assistive technologies, local government organizations must design their websites in an accessible manner.

Here are 7 things to know about local government website accessibility

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has established accessibility standards for local government websites

Under this Act, local governments have to provide qualified individuals with disabilities equal access to their programs, services, or activities.

All digital content must be accessible by citizens with visual, auditory, and other physical limitations and disabilities.

Your local government website should be designed to accommodate the use of assistive technology

According to the National Institute of Health, one in four American – about 61 million people – live with a disability of some kind.

This includes 10.8% with cognitive disabilities, 5.9% with hearing disability, 4.6% with vision impairment, and 13.7% with mobility difficulties.

Many disabled individuals use assistive technology to assist them in utilizing computers and accessing digital content.

This means that websites must be designed to accommodate the use of assistive technology.

Non-compliant design can form a barrier to content

Websites must be optimized to work in conjunction with assistive technology. Poorly designed websites can create barriers for disabled citizens, limiting, or completely inhibiting, their ability to obtain all available information from your website.

Add alt text to images

A visually impaired citizen may not be able to see a photo of a town hall prominently displayed on the home page.

Adding alt text to the image ensures screen readers are able to convey the information about the image to the visitor.

Standards are available to guide government website design

Section 508 Standards help government website designers ensure they are continually building compliant websites as technology changes and evolves. All government websites must adhere to the compliance elements specified in Section 508 standards.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0

WCAG is an acronym that stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It offers guidelines to create accessible web sites and web content.

Failure to comply with accessibility standards could have financial consequences

Local governments must ensure equitable access to content by all their citizens. If they fail to comply with standards established by the ADA, they could face a financial penalty.

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 local governments 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.

Conclusion

Local governments must provide an accessible experience for all their citizens as it is not only the right thing to do but also required by law.

Making sure their website and online files meets ADA Section 508 standards ensures that their citizens are able to access critical information and also be a model for other local governments to follow.

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