Accessibility in E-Government

Accessibility in E-Government

Christian Sonnenberg (Florida Institute of Technology, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch305

Abstract

Electronic Government (E-Government) resources and websites are a crucial interface for many citizens, yet accessibility is an often overlooked attribute when designing such tools. Poorly designed sites can seriously hinder and cause detrimental effects for user relying on these services. How content is presented and delivered on the Web makes an impact on how effective and helpful it is, but even more so for users with disabilities. This paper begins with the standards of digital government content presentation and follows up with a look at the compliance rate, current challenges, and possible avenues of future delivery methods. Discussion includes a look at Section 508 and possible update measures to incorporate new devices. This paper will explore the current drawbacks of automated compliance and accessibility management and provide perspective on what improvements need to be made to foster proper E-Government design.
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Introduction

Access to government-created digital content has come a long way since the early days of the Web. The growth of Internet usage coupled with advances in technology and reduced costs has made the use of Electronic Government (E-Government) resources and websites a primary means of content access for citizens in the United States. According to the latest census and national records, over 86% of the US population has access to the Internet with a continued growth rate of 7% from the previous year. (Internet Users by Country, 2014) However, as illustrated by the Healthcare.gov website launch in 2013, technological, accessibility, and usability issues can seriously hinder and cause detrimental effects for user relying on these services. How content is presented and delivered on the Web makes an impact on how effective and helpful it is, but even more so for users with disabilities. This paper will cover the methods and standards of digital government content, the compliance with accessibility guidelines for disabled users, current challenges, and possible avenues of future delivery methods.

Web accessibility as defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the means by which anyone regardless of physical or cognitive disability can use and operate a website (W3C Introduction to Web Accessibility, 2005). People with disabilities or normal aging considerations find it difficult if not impossible to use technology that nondisabled individuals could use freely. For example, a blind user visiting a website must rely on screen-reading technology to interpret the site while a nondisabled user can browse it without any additional assistance. In order to achieve accessibility in their websites, a number of rules and guidelines have been developed by the federal government. In 1998, congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 19731 with Section 508 to require federal agencies to make electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in electronic and information technology by requiring that disabled users have access to government information that is comparable to the access available to others without disabilities (www.section508.gov).

While accessibility focuses on the ability for all users, regardless of disability, to interact with content, another attribute is also important. Usability is how effectively, efficiently and satisfactorily a user can interact with a user interface (Chou & Hsiao, 2007). A focus on usability implies that a site is designed for easier access of content and information, which affects all users. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) interprets usability as effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which the user achieves specific goals in the specified context of use (ISO, 1998). Although not as strictly defined or required like Section 508, The U.S. Web Design Standards were developed as the U.S. government’s very own set of common components and designs for websites. It’s structured to make things easier for government site developers, while raising the bar on what users expect from their digital experience. Many of these standards are built upon the existing section 508 standards in hopes of taking them one step further.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Quick Response (QR): Matrix barcodes used by mobile device cameras to interpret localized information.

Color Deficiency: Color deficient vision results in an inability to distinguish certain colors and shades when compared to normal vision.

Electronic and Information Technology: Information technology and any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment used in the creation, conversion, or duplication of data or information ( www.access-board.gov AU52: The URL "www.access-board. gov" is incorrect. It has one or more space characters. ).

Screen Reader: Speech synthesis software used by a vision-impaired person to read aloud what is displayed on a computer screen.

Web Accessibility: Web accessibility means that a person, regardless of disabilities, is able to use Web technology without encountering any barriers.

Assistive Technology: Equipment, device, or other product that assists a disabled user in performing tasks that otherwise would be difficult or not possible to accomplish.

Section 508: Amendment to the 1973 Rehabilitation Act requiring federal agencies to make electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.

Motor Disabilities: Physical impairments that can impede movement, coordination, or sensation. They can include weakness and lack of muscle control.

Mobile Device: Any handheld technology that allows the user to operate the device in transit. This includes such items as smartphones and tablets.

Digital Divide: The digital divide is the gap between those who have access to electronic and information technology and those who do not.

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