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Countdown to Compliance: Is Your Local Government's Website Accessible to All Visitors?
Demand for Vision's Accessibility Training Grows as January 18 Deadline Approaches
In less than 70 days, local government agencies across the U.S. are required to make website content and all digital information accessible to all users, including those with visual, hearing or other disabilities. Vision, the innovators in website design and software for local government, today announced a number of services and free resources designed to help local leaders comply with these federal accessibility mandates before the January 18, 2018 deadline.
“Making a building accessible to people with disabilities has been an accepted fact of design for decades,” said Vision CEO David Nachman. “Now electronic information also must be accessible to all. Government agencies can no longer design websites or add content that creates unnecessary barriers to full civic participation. Vision is dedicated to creating solutions that promote access and participation by all residents.”
More than 60 million Americans have some form of disability that inhibits them from using electronic information or browsing with a mouse. To ensure greater accessibility for all, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, defines how to make websites and content more accessible to people with disabilities. Last January, the U.S. Access Board published a Final Rule requiring that all web, electronic and mobile digital content meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards by January 18, 2018.
While awareness of the accessibility compliance deadline is increasing, Nachman said the results of Vision’s 2017 “What’s Next Survey” revealed the level of accessibility knowledge among local government leaders remains low. “An overwhelming number of government leaders – 87 percent – said they have moderate, weak or no knowledge of Federal Web accessibility requirements,” he said. “The good news is that, with the right resources and training, professionals in every agency can learn to write, format and maintain content that is optimized for citizens with disabilities.”
Recognizing local governments’ need for assistance and best practices in this area, Vision is providing the following free resources:
- An educational webinar series, running from November 7th to December 12th, titled “18 Minutes to Get You Ready for January, 18, 2018,” providing critical compliance information in bite size pieces.
- A Digital Accessibility Checklist, available for download at http://info.visioninternet.com/accessibility-checklist.
- A library of informational blogs, including one titled “Why ‘Click Here’ Links Are Bad,” at http://blog.visioninternet.com/topic/accessibility.
In addition, for the past year, Vision’s team of accessibility experts, trained at web accessibility solutions (WebAIM) and certified by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals, has been traversing the country teaching department heads and website content editors how to create and maintain accessible content.
“The only way you can be sure to be compliant is to get everyone who creates content trained on the standards,” said Martin Lind, Vision’s vice president of services and business development. “Vision’s highly interactive training covers technical methods to be compliant, as well as why it’s important to do so.”
The County of Fresno, California, which completed Vision’s accessibility training this summer and launched its new website in October, strives to ensure that all citizens have equal access to County facilities and services.
“Vision takes the user experience seriously,” said Daniel Moore, the County’s information technology manager. “When we learned about their comprehensive accessibility training package for our entire team of content editors, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take advantage of it. The training was a very eye-opening experience that changed the way we think about publishing content. It was invaluable to have our content editors understand accessibility requirements pre-launch. Now we have a great looking, easy-to-navigate, accessible website that we are proud of, and we have the tools in place to keep it that way.”
Lind acknowledged that reformatting an entire municipal website to meet WCAG 2.0 standards can be challenging for agencies, especially as the window for compliance narrows. For agencies that are short on time and staff, Vision offers a content reformatting service that reworks webpage content and images, including proper link structure, header sequencing, table formatting and image alt tags, to comply with the new requirements.
Vision advises cities to install automated accessibility checkers to identify major barriers to accessibility and correct any issues as they arise. The Vision team also provides manual accessibility testing by people with disabilities. This manual testing ensures a technically compliant website is easy to use for people with disabilities. For example, a picture might have an alt tag that reads “boy” but if the picture is of a “boy holding a trophy after winning the local spelling bee” the alt tag won’t provide much value to a blind person.
For more information or to request a free website review and consultation from Vision’s digital accessibility experts, call 888-263-8847 or visit info.visioninternet.com/free-consultation.
Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., Vision is a national leader in government website design, development and hosting with more than 700 government, non-profit and education clients in U.S. and Canadian communities with populations that range from less than 1,000 residents to more than 5 million. For more than 20 years, Vision has created cost-effective solutions that increase government efficiency, build transparency and promote interactive communications with citizens.