How Well Does Your Website Serve Your Residents?

  • 15.02.2023

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    Accessibility of government agency websites

    If you’re a municipality or agency and are in charge of the oversight and administration of specific functions, the constituents and people under your jurisdiction rely on your digital properties for crucial information. People with disabilities must also have equal access to the information you provide.

    Given the profound impact it has on individuals with disabilities, and the legal requirements they carry, the accessibility of your website should be at the top of your list of priorities. It therefore imperative that you spend some time considering how everyone who uses the website to obtain information or keep abreast with important local notifications may easily access it.

    Whether you’re thinking about rebuilding your website, preparing to launch a new municipal or government agency website, or simply wanting to make sure your present website is as accessible as possible, use website accessibility as your compass.

    What is website accessibility?

    Website accessibility refers to how well websites have been designed so that users with disabilities may readily use them. All forms of disabilities that limit people’s access to the Internet have to be taken into account, including:

    • Visual impairments comprise blindness and various types of low vision, poor eyesight, and various types of color blindness.
    • Motor/mobility-related disabilities, including the difficulty or inability to use one’s hands, having tremors, muscle slowness, and loss of fine muscle control due to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, stroke, etc.
    • Deafness or hearing impairments, including individuals who are hard of hearing.
    • Photo-epileptic seizures are caused by visual strobe or flashing effects.
    • Cognitive and intellectual disabilities, including developmental disabilities, learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc., and cognitive disabilities of various origins that affect memory, attention, developmental maturity, problem-solving and logic skills, etc.


    Why is web accessibility important for municipal websites?

    In the world, there are more than one billion people who have a disability. In the United States, 18.7% of the population has a disability that impairs the ability of their muscles and other body parts to function.

    In the Province of Ontario, which is highly regarded as a local government entity that has given accessibility a serious priority, about 25% of the entire population, or 2.6 million people, live with disabilities. These numbers of people with disabilities are projected to rise as the population ages.

    By ensuring that these citizens have access to information and communication technology (ICT) products and services that are equivalent to those offered to people without disabilities, we can better integrate them into the fabric of our society. Municipalities and other local government organizations have a significant role to play in promoting web accessibility, which is central to removing barriers for people with disabilities.

    Here are the reasons why web accessibility is important for local government agencies, such as municipalities:


    1. Web accessibility is a legal requirement

    The Canadian province of Ontario serves as an illustration of how a local government organization might prioritize accessibility in all aspects of its operations. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which was passed by the province, outlines the procedure for creating and enforcing accessibility requirements.

    Persons with disabilities and industry representatives collaborate with the government of Ontario to develop accessibility standards. In subsequent sections of this article, more information is provided about accessibility in the Province of Ontario, including its AODA.

    In the United States (U.S.), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been enacted. It requires all state and local governments to grant people with disabilities equal access to their programs, services, and activities. This means that they must make sure that all of their digital content is accessible to everyone, including residents who have physical, visual, or auditory impairments.

    U.S. states and local governments are specifically prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities in all services, programs, and activities offered to the general public under Title II of the ADA. Therefore, while creating, renovating, or updating any government agency website, including municipal websites, web accessibility is a crucial consideration.

    The ADA’s accessibility standards are the same for both physical venues and websites. To comply with the ADA’s criteria for public accommodations, websites must be carefully planned, just like public buildings. They have been classified as public accommodations.

    Municipal websites, for example, have drawn a lot of attention from ADA compliance advocates because, as local government machinery, their failure to provide ADA compliance leadership has an impact on the effort to have as many businesses and organizations as possible be ADA compliant.

    2. Increased participation and involvement by citizens

    Because it allows users to access information about the services offered by the website, having an accessible website gives residents of a municipality or local government unit better service.

    Residents of a community are more likely to engage and be involved if the community’s website is accessible to them because an accessible website raises their awareness of the events and programs that are provided.

    Given that one in five Americans has a disability of some kind, websites must take web accessibility into account so that people with disabilities may use computers and access any digital content that is made available on websites.

    When developing their websites, local governments and municipal websites should take into account common types of assistive technology, such as screen readers, voice recognition tools, and optical character recognition software systems.

    3. Avoidance of court battles and financial consequences

    The issue of web accessibility is currently a heated one in the courts. At least 2,258 cases involving Internet accessibility were brought in federal court under Title III of the ADA in 2028, a massive rise of 177% from the 814 such claims in 2017.

    Disability-related plaintiffs and inaccessible websites are common themes in all of these claims. Spend some time learning how the website serves your citizens without discrimination to prevent a user with a disability who finds it difficult to use from taking your municipal or local government website to court.

    It is crucial to note that even if your website has excellent digital content if it lacks the required level of web accessibility, that will prevent it from serving its intended purpose.

    Poorly designed websites can put barriers in the way of accessibility for those with disabilities by restricting or obstructing their ability to access all of the site’s material. This can lead a disabled person who feels discriminated against by the information provided to seek recourse in court.

    Government organizations should place a high focus on ensuring that all of their citizens have fair access to digital information, which is why it’s crucial to point out that local governments that do not adhere to ADA requirements risk financial and legal penalties.

    4. Enabling website users to see photos

    Photos on your website might not be visible to people with visual impairments. Therefore, they will rely on their screen readers to read the text that is displayed on the screen and to describe any accompanying graphics. Your website should enable screen readers to view the alt text of images when reading the content aloud.

    Users with disabilities won’t be able to fully understand your content if your website doesn’t include accurate alt text. The technical specifications and requirements of ADA Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 compliance can assist your municipality or local government agency in developing compliant websites. The compliance of your website will also be supported as the information on your web pages changes over time.

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      The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

      In the province of Ontario, both the public and private sectors are subject to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This law, which signifies dynamism in ensuring accessibility by a local government organization, was passed in 2005 and is thought to be an improvement over the previous Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2001.

      The AODA requires compliance with accessibility requirements in five key business areas: information and communications (including websites, apps, and digital documents like PDFs), as well as customer service, transportation, employment, and the design of public spaces.

      The AODA specifies a timeframe by which the government, public-sector institutions, and businesses of all sizes must adhere to the accessibility criteria. The Ontario government wants the province to be fully accessible by 2025, courtesy of the AODA.

      It is important to note that Ontario already has human rights laws in place that forbid discrimination against those with disabilities. The Ontario Human Rights Code is still in effect despite the AODA. It does, however, outline certain procedures that covered companies must adhere to in order to make sure their activities and guidelines are consistent with the AODA.

      Both governmental and commercial organizations in Ontario are astute enough to make sure that the ever-growing older population and individuals with impairments can access their digital experiences. This is done for their brands’ and customers’ benefits as well as for compliance reasons.

      The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) were both created with the goal of enabling people with any kind of disability to participate completely and equitably.

      At a local government level, Ontario’s AODA is a trailblazer. It guarantees conformance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA in the same way that ACA does, which makes the Canadian province serve as a model that municipal and local government structures might follow in providing web accessibility to their residents.

      Need help with municipal or local government website accessibility?

      Local government entities should endeavor to learn from the Province of Ontario’s best practices for providing accessibility at the local government level. ADACP can help any municipal or local government entity that wants to ensure web accessibility.

      Always keep in mind that as a local government agency, your ability to serve all of your constituents, regardless of their level of disability, is essential to ensure your services and means of communication are not discriminatory.

      With expert website assessments of your digital products and services, you can ensure your digital properties are accessible to all. Your need for web accessibility can be met through the expert assistance of ADACP. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.