Good Practices in E-Government Accessibility: Lessons From the European Union

Good Practices in E-Government Accessibility: Lessons From the European Union

Fernando Almeida, José Augusto Monteiro
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3479-3.ch104
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This chapter looks to the accessibility good practices that should be adopted in the development of e-Government platforms. To this end, accessibility issues and implemented good practices in e-government services portals of the Top-4 countries in the overall e-Government Benchmark 2017 are comparatively analyzed. Despite the recognized work of those countries in the digitization of public services and the existence of relevant good practices, there are still relevant issues in accomplishment accessibility standards, particularly in the structuring of websites, the use of alternative text to images and videos, the adoption of alternatives to flash technology and the use of high contrast colors.
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e-Government has assumed a growing importance in society, enabling the modernization of public administration through the use of information and communication technologies. Several studies worldwide, particularly in United States, Europe and Gulf countries, have reported the evolution of this paradigm and proposed several frameworks for its adoption (Baker, 2009; Alhomod & Shafi, 2012; Mansour, 2012). However, technology is not the only pillar that contributes to the success of an e-Government system, and the involvement of public institutions, their employees and citizens is also crucial. The aim of e-Government is to bring public administration and public services closer to citizens in order to maximize the efficiency of public services and, therefore, contribute to a more democratic and fair society.

At European level, e-Government is seen as one of the pillars in the construction of a Europe that promotes the integration and inclusion of citizens and contributes to the creation of European citizenship. The e-Government Action Plan 2016-2020 defines three main axes in its mission (EU, 2017a): (i) to modernize public administration; (ii) to achieve the digital internet market; and (iii) to engage more with citizens and businesses to deliver high quality services. It is conceivable to conclude that e-Government is seen by European institutions as an important policy to promote citizenship, to drive change in public services, to disseminate technology, to foster the integration of systems and processes, and to promote digital inclusion of citizens.

e-Government platform should be inclusive and provide the same access opportunities to all citizens. In this sense, e-Government should be accessible. Thus, the concept of accessibility in the context of Web applications is associated with the effective availability of information to all users, regardless of the technology and platforms used and the sensory and functional capacities of the user. e-Government services should contribute to the inclusion of people with special needs and provide mechanisms to help them overcome traditional physical barriers (Leist & Smith, 2014). In fact, the European Commission (EC) argues in its program of employment, social affairs & inclusion that it is fundamental that the European Union (EU) promotes the full participation of disabled people in society (EU, 2017b). EC clearly states that “disability is a right issue and not a matter of discretion” (EU, 2017b). Additionally, it is important to consider that the European population is aging, which increases the relevance of accessibility, because it is expected that older people will face greater difficulties in using technology.

In this sense, we intend to identify the accessibility standards that must be adopted in the development of European and National e-Government services. We perform a comparative analysis of each of them, emphasizing their benefits for the inclusion of citizens, but also presenting their current limitations. Likewise, we intend to distinguish between the existing accessibility standards that are mandatory and the good practices that are suggested to be relevant to the inclusion of people and to promote a growing adoption of online public services by all citizens. Finally, we identify and describe how the best practices are implemented and achieved in e-Government solutions, giving some examples in Europe and in different EU countries.

The manuscript is organized as follows: Initially a literature review is performed to identify the main relevant accessibility standards adopted in European and National e-Government services. Also in this section, this study discusses the main good practices in accessibility that can be found in e-Government platforms. After that, the methodology is presented, which includes an analysis of the top-4 countries in the e-Government Benchmark 2017. Four case studies are considered: (i) Malta; (ii) Denmark; (iii) Sweden; and (iv) Estonia. Subsequently, the manuscript presents some solutions and recommendations and provides insights on future research directions. Finally, the conclusions of this study are drawn.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): Provides a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible.

Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA): Defines a way to make web content and web applications more accessible to people with disabilities.

Pop-Ups: New window that opens in the browser when visiting a web page or accessing a specific hyperlink.

HTML5: Markup language used for structuring and presenting content on the world wide web.

Flash: Popular authoring software developed by Macromedia that is used to create vector graphics-based animation programs with full-screen navigation interfaces.

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