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Creating accessible content for the City of Boston

The City of Boston is dedicated to creating accessible content for all Bostonians.

The goal is for all City departments to provide language and communication access by 2020. This is a priority for us because 17.4 percent of the Boston population primarily uses a language other than English (LOTE), while 12.8 percent has at least one disability. We want to make sure these demographic groups can receive accurate and timely information. 

As multilingual and accessible materials become the norm in City Hall, we want to ensure a standard of practice. The Mayor’s Office of Language and Communications Access teamed up with the Department of Innovation and Technology to produce Language and Communications guidelines. This comprehensive guide references best practices for language content in social media, video, and text. All the information is also applicable to accessibility planning in general. 
We answer some commonly asked questions such as, “What are the top languages spoken in Boston?” or, “How do I budget for translations?” This guide gives detailed tips for working with specific languages. There are some key distinctions between spoken and written languages. For example, Simplified and Traditional Chinese refer only to written forms. Additionally, how a language is used may be unique to each group or community of speakers. For example, Cabo Verdean Creole is primarily spoken.

The Language Tips section of the Language and Communications Guidelines

For digital communication, the guide explains how to best practice digital accessibility. Alternative text on images helps give blind and low-vision people context. Videos always have captions. City of Boston uses YouTube for our video content. Keep in mind that captions generated by YouTube do not guarantee accuracy. We recommend either uploading accurate caption files or editing from YouTube’s first draft.  
Snip it from the LCA Introduction video with English captions

The Language and Communications Guidelines is the newest of the Brand Guidelines that standardize how the City of Boston creates and presents materials. Together, we are excited to publish this guide to centralize resources and answer questions. If you have any questions or feedback, please contact

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