Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey signed an executive order on Wednesday establishing a new digital accessibility board and the position of a chief information technology accessibility officer, a move the commonwealth’s tech chief said will help fix “highly variable” access to digital services across the state.
The new Digital Accessibility and Equity Governance Board and officer, created the signing of Executive Order #614 on Wednesday — which also marked the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act — will be housed within the state’s Executive Office of Technology Services and Security. One of the board’s key tasks will be to create a new digital accessibility and equity program.
Jason Snyder, state chief information officer and secretary of EOTSS, told StateScoop that the aim of the board and new position — which hasn’t yet been filled — is to provide focus and structure across the digital accessibility of services provided by the state’s agencies. He said accessibility varies by agency and there’s no formal inventory.
“We do not have a central database or repository of all the applications and their accessibility — their ability to meet accessibility goals,” Snyder told StateScoop. “And there are those that just don’t know what they should be doing. We also get, ‘I don’t know how to do this. I’d love to do it. But I don’t know how.'”
Snyder said he’ll work closely with the new chief IT accessibility officer — which he hopes to appoint within the next six to eight weeks — to advance one of the key goals he laid out for this year. During his testimony in state legislature during its first 2024 budget hearing in March, Snyder said digital services was one of the state’s top four technology priorities.
“This board that we’re creating not only includes experts from across state government in this space, but external people as well, who they’ve dealt with this elsewhere,” Snyder said. “They have experiences that they can describe, and they can define standards and standard approaches for getting to the point where we are accessible by everybody.”
The new board and office were created in collaboration with the Massachusetts Office on Disability and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, Snyder added.
The executive order also mandates that IT accessibility officers be installed in each of the commonwealth’s executive offices to serve as liaisons to the chief IT accessibility officer and the new board. Metrics tracking the board’s progress will be displayed on a public website, according to a news release.
“I am so excited by the fact that we will be able to offer services for everybody,” Snyder said. “Prior to the session yesterday, I was talking to some of the members of the community, and they compared this to a building not being required to offer a ramp or offering a ramp that went all the way around the building and that being acceptable. This is the right vision and this is the right way to make this happen. And by having a board, it’ll ensure that going forward, that we’ll have a motivated group to ensure that this always will be the case for Massachusetts.”