Accessibility benefits more than just people with disabilities. Think about the elevator: this technology allowed individuals with mobility impairments to access buildings, but it also made it easier for everyone to get to their desired floor! All people – regardless of their ability – benefit from accessibility-driven innovations. In the digital world, accessibility similarly enhances the all-around user experience. Improving the digital user experience quite often down to simplicity: simple design, simple language, a straightforward user experience. [READ MORE: This article is another in our series on What is Digital Accessibility?] For government agencies, an accessible web design is critical. When a citizen lands on a government website, it’s likely with a goal in mind: to find out information, interact with their officials, submit a form or application, etc. Citizens expect to find the information and forms they need on their municipality’s website. A simple experience ensures citizens can find what they need, and can be active participants in their community. A complicated journey, convoluted language or clunky interface could result in a citizen giving up. This could mean lower engagement, lost revenue, or even lawsuits. To avoid this, a government website—at a minimum—must conform with:
- the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0
- the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s recommendations for best practices in accessible web design
- Section 508, the 2001 amendment to the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and
- Americans with Disabilities Act requires this principle in accessibility lawsuit settlements.
Is my government web design accessible?A 2017 study by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation found that 85% of government sites are inaccessible. Inaccessible web design is prevalent on all levels of government, though more acutely among smaller local governments that lack the resources to proactively audit and upgrade their web design. There’s a good chance your government’s website isn’t meeting accessible web design standards. To learn more about your State’s laws regarding accessibility and compliance, click here. Want to check for yourself to see if your government’s web design is accessible? We recommend browser plugins like this Siteimprove Accessibility Checker, which will flag any WCAG violations on your government website.
What online barriers do people with disabilities face?According to a 2018 report by the Center for Disease Control, one in 4 U.S. adults – 61 million Americans – have a disability that impacts major life activities. That’s 25% of adults that are affected by inaccessible government services. But what do online barriers to access look like? See below for some common problems associated with inaccessible government websites:
- Images Without Text Equivalents
- Videos and Other Multimedia Lacking Accessible Features
- Forms and Documents Not Posted In an Accessible Format