Stop Trying to Make Your Municipal Website Accessible (Manually)

It is time for local governments across the nation to integrate their municipal websites with an accessibility automation remediation solution for enhanced compliance, without additional workflows.
CivicPlus | January 2, 2018

Remember dictionaries? Real, printed dictionaries that were heavy and filled with words you had never heard of and that were organized alphabetically? Remember the struggle of trying to verify how to spell a word, when you did not already know how to spell the word, and so you could not find the word in the dictionary to confirm its spelling? Do you remember the embarrassment you felt when you found out you misspelled a word that you thought you spelled correctly? Remember the frustration you felt, after all your effort to check your work, when you were plagued by a spelling rule you never even knew existed, and could not have known to verify?

Now, let us reflect on happier times. Do you remember the first time a word processing software automatically spell checked your document for you? Even better, remember when that software could automatically correct your spelling and grammar as you typed? Suddenly, what was once a tedious, flawed process that took extra time and required extra resources became seamless, integrated, and most importantly automated by a technology solution programmed to know better than you the difference between affect and effect, and suite and suit.

Would you ever give up the convenience and integrated automation of computer spellchecking to go back to manual reviews and the high risk of unintended error? If you are like most professionals, your answer is no.

Then why you are still trying to manually manage, validate, and account for the litany of complex accessibility requirements of Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that dictate the formatting of your civic website’s content? Just like with modern day computer spellchecking, automated accessibility remediation software alleviates the time and accountability burden of manual intervention relative to digital content compliance. Such software saves local government staff time while providing a finished product that is, by virtue of its built-in algorithms, more thorough and accurate than even the keenest trained staff member could ever hope to be.

Consider this digital content publishing rule that local governments must comply with per the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standards:

Section 1 Perceivable, 1.1 Text Alternatives, 1.1.1 Non-Text Content – Level A

"If non-text content is a test or exercise that would be invalid if presented in text, then text alternatives at least provide descriptive identification of the non-text content."

Now, review your entire municipal website to determine if every page meets this requirement. If you are like many digital content managers, you are still questioning the exact meaning of this provision, wondering how and where it pertains to your website, and then wondering how to validate it. How long would it take you to verify this requirement for all your digital content? An hour or two? WCAG 2.0 includes over 60 pieces of criteria, just like the one above. How long would it take you to validate each one of them for every page of your website? Every time a staff member in a department adds, edits, or deletes a page, you will need to recheck them all. To ensure continual ADA compliance as your website evolves, how much of your time will you need to dedicate to hypervigilant digital content accessibility review and optimization?

If you are starting to think that such manual maintenance is impossible, you are correct that it is cumbersome and too susceptible to error to ensure the level of equitable access to content your citizens deserve. Instead of investing in hours of training, dedicating staff resources to continual monitoring and risking non-compliance, local government website administrators should take the path of least resistance and implement an automated solution.

Achieve Accessibility Success With Automated Accessibility Testing and Dynamic Remediation Technology

According to Sean Bradley, Co-Founder, President & CTO of AudioEye, Inc., a technology company that offers industry-leading, technology-based accessibility solutions in the public and private sector, accessibility is not an end-point, it is an ongoing process.

"Accessibility cannot be achieved with a one-time fix. Websites, like the Internet itself, are dynamic, continually changing. Achieving a successful and sustainable accessibility strategy requires a multi-faceted approach that begins with mix of automated and manual testing, end-user feedback, fixing issues of accessibility and validating remediation efforts through continuous maintenance and monitoring. To maintain conformance with ADA-related requirements, a website must be consistently monitored to ensure content creators and website editors are taking accessibility best-practices into consideration when deploying and publishing new content. Maintaining conformance requires mature processes that demand the involvement of, both, subject matter and technical experts. Achieving accessibility success is dependent on knowledgeable resources that are versed on the many nuances of the ever-evolving Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which provide as an essential guide for those conducting accessibility audits."

While Mr. Bradley recommends that all website content creators understand the fundamentals of accessibility and the laws regarding ADA-related compliance, he also recommends that local governments alleviate the burden of manual code checking and remediation and leverage available technology to speed the process of achieving and maintaining the necessary level of compliance.

Communities that have invested in automated accessibility remediation software are benefitting from greater compliance, mitigated risks of penalties and fines, and greater citizen end-user satisfaction and engagement.

With accessibility requirements becoming even more stringent in 2018 with additional Section 508 regulations going into effect this month, can your community risk non-compliance? Do you have the time to evaluate all of your website content for every facet of every regulation? Would you ever go back to manual spellchecking? It is time for local governments across the nation to integrate their municipal websites with an accessibility automation remediation solution for enhanced compliance, without additional workflows.

CivicPlus is the integrated technology platform for local government, working with over 2,500 local governments including municipalities, counties, and municipal departments. CivicPlus has been selected by Inc. Magazine as "One of the Fastest-Growing Privately Held Companies in the U.S." since 2011. For more information visit CivicPlus.com.