Last updated: May 10, 2019

Creating Accessible Forms for Local Government

Any online service that utilizes a form should be accessible to anyone and everyone. Here's what you need to consider when creating these forms.

An image of a computer keyboard.

Over the past few years, accessible forms have become a key priority in the realm of government innovation. As of January 18, 2018, Federal agencies are required to make their websites fully accessible to users with disabilities, in accordance with the updated Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 508 now incorporates Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), representing the most comprehensive legislative effort to account for disabled users in developing online content.

Compliance is measured on the basis of whether a website is Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. Each of these four categories enumerates criteria on how a website should adapt to the needs of users with disabilities.

  • Can the website accommodate assistive technologies?
  • Is the content easy to read and navigate?
  • Is all functionality available from a keyboard?

These are just some of the questions that are guiding all online content posted on the federal level.

The consequences of not offering compliant online forms

With the rise in ADA lawsuits over the past few years, state and local governments are also increasingly adhering to Section 508 and WCAG standards.  In an effort to make online information more accessible, many State and Local governments are training their content editors to write in a way that is understandable by users with learning disabilities, senior citizens, and non-English speakers. As a result, government content is being accessed by more users than ever before.

But accessible web pages are only part of the puzzle. What about all of the forms and applications that live on these pages? Posting PDFs on municipal websites poses major challenges for disabled users, who cannot easily see the text or modify it for assistive technologies.

Additionally, these applications often need to be printed and mailed in, or physically brought into a municipal office, further violating WCAG guidelines. Now more than ever, governments are seeking compliant alternatives in order to provide accessible online services.

A slide that shows how web accessibility affects 1 in 5 adults in the United States. Image credit: WSI(Slide image courtesy of WSI Webinar)

The benefits of offering compliant online forms

GovOS is at the forefront of providing 508, ADA, and WCAG 2.1 compliant online forms. The GovOS platform allows governments to build fully accessible web forms from scratch and convert existing PDFs into accessible forms, with eSignatures, payments, and attachments. With drag-and-drop capabilities, our form solutions empower staff with no technical experience to quickly and easily transform cumbersome paper processes into robust digital versions, while optimizing accessibility for all users.

But citizens aren’t the only ones benefitting from our accessible solutions. The City of Austin’s ADA Program Manager, David Ondich, is blind and is able to use his screen-reading technology on his computer to manage submitted applications through the GovOS platform.

In a recent conversation, David described his experience as a user of the GovOS platform:

“The City passed an ordinance that allowed citizens to complete an application for certain services, which necessitated two-way communication between our citizenry and certain departmental SPOCs. As the ADA Manager, I was designated as the first point of contact in the process. That meant that all applications were initially routed to me and, following an eligibility process, I pushed those applications to the appropriate departmental SPOC based on the requested service.

GovOS was a good solution as all fields were properly tagged and was therefore accessible to screen-reading technology users, both citizen and staff. This is especially important as the law requires that municipal government services be accessible to all, including people with disabilities. The online form was also convenient for the citizens, as they were able to complete the form and immediately submit it, routing to the correct person, me.

I was then able to easily access the form, determine the request and very quickly route it to the appropriate departmental SPOC, which was especially important as there were deadlines associated with the City’s response. Finally, The City is required to maintain and report data associated with the ordinance and the [GovOS] system maintains a database of program activities.

It is the overall accessibility of the site that makes it a good solution for me, as a blind professional.”

Here at GovOS, we are passionate about powering accessible forms for all staff and constituents, because access should be a right, not a privilege. David’s story is a true inspiration for us, and we hope that other governments follow in Austin’s footsteps, adopting technology that can be accessed and used by anyone.

Because Government should be Beautiful for everyone.

Education & Inspiration

Resources for Local Government Officials