Accessibility Requirements Causing Problems for Disabled Constituents of Municipalities
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Did you know that a number of website builders who specialize in municipal websites are not providing websites that disabled constituents can successfully access?
Municipalities are a significant component of any government’s ecosystem for ensuring improved quality of life for all citizens. That is because municipalities have a direct impact on the living standards of the people in a community.
As municipalities embrace the urgency to provide several services, it is becoming increasingly necessary for them to shift to e-services that can be accessed online through the municipality’s website.
With the increasing usage of different online services by constituents of municipalities, there is a need to ensure no constituent is discriminated against in terms of access to the provided services.
However, that is not the case as many municipality websites are failing to meet the set accessibility requirements, which is causing access problems for constituents with disabilities. While most municipalities trust that their contracted website builders are developing accessible websites for them, the sad reality is that this is not the case.
As a municipality, do you ever ascertain the level of accessibility of your website and verify its ability to serve all your constituents without discrimination before allowing your builder to go live with it?
As a decision-maker at the municipal level, this should be a reason to get you worried. Lack of accessibility by decision makers is what is resulting in worrying web-related statistics such as 97.4% of the world’s top 1 million websites not offering full accessibility and low-contrast text that falls below the WCAG 2.1 AA thresholds being associated with 86.4% of home pages.
A website that is not accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, can be regarded as a human rights violation or an affront to the laws of a given jurisdiction. It begs more questions if the website belongs to a municipality, which must deliver government services to local people in a community without being seen as discriminatory.
While Ontario, Canada, is regarded as a jewel in championing ICT accessibility, many establishments, including municipalities, are still well behind in terms of conformity with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
AODA is a law that sets out a process for developing and enforcing accessibility standards. It encourages people with disabilities and industry representatives to work together with the government in developing accessibility standards.
Failing to conform to AODA puts a business or organization at risk of being reported, which could bring with it a daily fine of up to $100,000.
While businesses that may have inaccessible websites could be forgiven for lacking the understanding that people with disabilities are active users of the web and mobile technology, such a lack of understanding cannot be attributed to a government institution such as a municipality. That is because government institutions must lead the way in enhancing inclusion and are held to the highest accessibility standards.
Municipalities in Canada have a strong commitment to accessibility. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has been steadfast about municipalities in the country providing services that are free of barriers and biases.
FCM’s stance toward accessibility is inspired by the federation’s focus on ensuring that Canada’s key principles of independence, dignity, integration, and equality of opportunity are reflected and valued in all Canadian municipalities’ working environments. Each municipality’s conduct usually demonstrates its belief in the strength that diversity brings to their communities.
There is a difference between a commitment to accessibility and doing everything possible to ensure it is realized. It is this difference that is causing problems in many municipalities in Canada, including those in the Ontario regions that are celebrated for having progressive accessibility standards.
While some of the municipalities in Ontario are oblivious to the fact that their websites and the services they provide there are inaccessible to some people with disabilities, the sad truth is that their website builders are causing that to be the case.
Most of the affected municipalities outsource the work of developing and upgrading their websites to website building companies that are not properly trained in ensuring the developed websites are accessible.
While the website builders are to blame for the hundreds of accessibility errors that are regularly discovered when using or accessing the websites, the ultimate blame for having an inaccessible website usually lies with the municipality concerned.
As a decision-maker in a municipality, you should not be passive about issues concerning the accessibility of your website. That is because if the website fails to conform to the established accessibility requirements and causes problems for your constituents with disabilities, you won’t transfer the blame to the website builder.
Could your municipality be one of those that has embarked on the transformative pathway of joining their constituents and communities with digital solutions that make your cities smart, safe, and secure?
Did you know that with that noble intention you could be deepening the discrimination of your constituents unless your website and other digital solutions are accessible to all your constituents?
Well-meaning municipalities may contract with companies that lack accessibility training to build or update their websites or other digital properties. Some website builders may make municipalities believe they understand accessibility, but that is not reflected in the final website they develop. That is why municipalities need to hire a third-party accessibility company to properly test their websites for all WCAG and AODA requirements to verify if they are indeed sufficiently accessible.
Testing municipal websites for accessibility is important for municipalities because there is a razor-thin margin of error, as their constituents must have access to their digital content. You don’t want your constituents to initiate lawsuits against you for not taking the proper steps to make your website accessible to all of them.
Let ADACP review the current accessibility of your website and to verify if it is accessible by calling (626) 486-2201 to schedule an appointment where we can discuss your website accessibility needs.