States need policies to push website accessibility – NASCIO


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A group of state technology executives wants to make it easier for people with disabilities to use state websites, apps and videos.

A new report out Thursday from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers lays out recommendations for making government information technology more accessible. It says chief information officers should establish an accessibility policy framework that’s integrated to the state’s enterprise architecture — an approach called Policy-Driven Adoption for Accessibility, or PDAA.

“Historically state governments have struggled to address accessibility requirements as part of IT procurements,” the report, written by Meredith Ward, NASCIO’s senior policy analyst, said. “State CIO offices, working collaboratively with state procurement officials have an opportunity to change the current approach to benefit citizens, public sector employees and vendors.”

When they’re tackling new information and communications technology — or ICT — projects, state tech executives should factor in accessibility from procurement to rollout, according to the report.

The PDAA approach, which some states like Texas have begun to put in place, has advantages, including “improving marketability and reducing risk to both vendors and procurement organizations by addressing inclusiveness and equal opportunity in the digital age,” the report said. NASCIO emphasized that PDAA should not be an alternative to the existing procurement processes but rather an addition.

NASCIO also recommended vendors strive to meet ICT accessibility standards in their products so that they are more competitive to states using the PDAA approach.

ICT accessibility “is the digital equivalent to accessibility in the physical environment — the curb cuts, ramps, railings, of the digital age,” the report said.

Currently, nearly all states have some sort of regulation or policy in place on ICT accessibility. In California earlier this year, legislators moved to establish an Office of Assistive Technology within the state’s Technology Department. Even so, legacy systems and outdated technology mire some states’ efforts to make accessibility a priority.

“Government organizations are highly dependent on procurement of ICT from suppliers for the majority of products and services used,” the report said. “Continued investments in inaccessible legacy products and platforms prevent many enterprise products from being fully accessible.”

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