We Are Committed to Digital Accessibility for All Georgia Citizens
Making our websites accessible or providing universal access involved tuning the code and content to serve users with disabilities as well as the population at large. Disabilities span a broad spectrum; while we may think of someone who is blind, deaf or with noticeable physical impairment, there’s a wide range of issues that may prevent someone from accessing the content of a website.
WebAIM breaks down the categories of disability types as follows:
- Visual - blindness, low vision and color blindness.
- Hearing - deafness or with a range of hearing loss.
- Motor - unable to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control
- Cognitive - learning disabilities, distractibility or inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information.
As civil servants for the state of Georgia, we serve citizens across the full spectrum of abilities, so we need to be mindful of that as we build our websites and provide content. If our websites aren’t built with accessibility in mind, it creates real barriers to some of the users who need them the most.
The great thing about websites built for universal access is they benefit all users, not just those with disabilities. They’re more likely to be picked up by search engines and generally more user-friendly. Because having a highly accessible design is a win/win, we decided to launch our Accessible Platform initiative in 2015.
Working with the AMAC Accessibility Solutions and Research Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology, we improved the accessibility of our underlying platform code to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) requirements. WCAG 2.0 (Level AA) is a set of international standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and is recognized by many countries, including Japan, Australia, Germany, Canada, and the U.S. These standards outline a robust list of success criteria with the goal of making web content more accessible for people with disabilities. WCAG 2.0 considers a number of broad categories that the majority of disabilities fall under, including:
- Color Blindness
- Low Vision
- Motor Disabilities
- Cognitive Disabilities
Working towards the goal of meeting WCAG 2.0 (Level AA) accessibility requirements ensures that our sites are as accessible as we can possibly make them.
Many of these improvements were subtle﹘ nearly invisible to most of our users. Yet for those who need them, they can make a world of difference enhancing the ease and speed at which people access information on our agencies' websites.
What We Did to Improve the Platform
We focused on two main areas of accessibility enhancements for the state of Georgia's enterprise web platform:
- improved functionality in the code to benefit screen reader users
- improved color contrast in their designs to benefit users with low vision and color blindness.
By the end of January 2016, all the websites on our platform had color contrast and functionality improvements to meet WCAG 2.0 (Level AA) standards. (See the full Accessible Platform Enhancement List and timeline.)
Our Ongoing Focus on Accessibility
Our Accessible Initiative was a huge success. However, we know that our work will never be complete. As research and technological improvements continue, we aim to stay updated and learn new ways to keep our websites and platform accessible. We are continually educating ourselves and collaborating with experts to make sure everyone has access to a digital self service government.
What You can do to Improve Your Content
Accessibility isn't just a code consideration - it applies to the content of the sites as well. This includes:
- adding alternate text to images;
- creating accessible PDFs; and
- writing content in plain language that is easy to understand.
For an agency's website to be fully accessible on the enterprise platform, you must also do your part to make the information provided on the sites accessible as well. The following are content-specific improvements that you can make to increase the accessibility of your website's content.
- Use clear and simple language
- Add alternate text to images
- Use helpful text for links
- Use tables for tabular data only
- Use semantic markup (mark Headings in your body text, etc.)
- Make your Documents Accessible
- Provide Captions, Transcripts, and Audio Descriptions for multimedia
Behind the Curtain, Part 2: Accessibility Enhancements
In this blog post, Kendra Skeene goes into more detail on the process of making our platform more accessible.
Georgia Technology Authority: A National Model of ICT Accessibility for State Agencies
AccessGA's Newsletter on GeorgiaGov Interactive's Accessible Platform initiative.
The Growing Impact and Importance of Web Accessibility
In this blog post, John Rempel talks about the legal ramifications of ignoring accessibility on your website.
Content for All: Accessible Content is Better for Everyone (video)
In this GOVTalks presentation, Kendra Skeene gives you an overview of how you can improve the accessibility of your website content.
Website Accessibility Standards for the State of Georgia
All websites owned and managed by state agencies SHALL meet at least the minimum standards for accessibility as defined by the W3C guidelines, as outlined in standard SA-14-001.
Web Accessibility Initiative’s Easy Checks – A First Review of Web Accessibility
Want to learn more about website accessibility? W3.org has a great resource to get you started.