As government agencies begin to embrace digital transformation, they should mind the diversity of their constituencies and work to design services that are accessible to all.
The government accessibility movement began with the Section 508 amendment to the federal Rehabilitation Act. While this regulation is not binding for state and local agencies, many states support accessibility laws that impose similar requirements.
This leaves technology teams seeking ways to achieve compliance that enables constituent interaction while reducing the burden on technologists. Let’s take a look at three ways to configure systems to increase accessibility.
1. State Agencies Should Follow Guidance from Vendors
Attempting to set accessibility would be a mammoth task for the thousands of individual configuration settings for software, hardware and services deployed by state and local agencies.
Fortunately, many vendors understand this and develop their products to stand out in a market that increasingly demands accessible technology. So, major vendors now provide Section 508 compliance documents that assist IT teams in configuring their products for maximum accessibility.
Review vendor lists and identify systems that require configuration. A web search for a vendor’s name and the phrase “Section 508 compliance” will yield results for large vendors — such as Microsoft, Dell and IBM — a boost for implementing accessibility for popular products. With this guidance, IT teams can configure to ensure compliance.
2. Adopt the Perspective of a Disabled User
Not every accessibility challenge can be solved by vendors. But technologists can put themselves in the position of users with various disabilities to meet these challenges. Is it possible to use a particular technology without seeing it, perhaps with screen-reading software? Could the interface be successfully engaged without a mouse or trackpad?
Fortunately, technologists don’t need to answer these questions alone. Resources are available to assist with developing an accessibility mindset.
Chief among these are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a widely adopted set of standards describing how to design accessible websites. Agencies may also turn to focus groups of assistive technology users for help configuring their systems and services for the broadest possible audience.
3. Remember to Make Documents Accessible
Technologists often overlook documents and forms in their accessibility work, but PDFs, PowerPoint presentations and other formats often serve as primary vehicles for communicating among coworkers and citizens.