A message from Commissioner McCosh: Improving digital accessibility
Dear Disability Community Members,
With so many activities moving to digital platforms this year, online accessibility has become more important than ever. The City of Boston’s Department of Information Technology (DoIT) has been working extensively to ensure that this important new aspect of accessibility is a central piece of all City websites. This week, we’d like to highlight some of their recent work.
Mayor Walsh’s goal is to build digital experiences that work for all residents, so DoIT is continually looking to make digital tools better and more accessible for our users. Focusing on accessibility has always been a top priority for Boston’s Digital Team. To that end, they have formed a partnership with a local company called Iterators LLC to conduct an accessibility audit of the City of Boston’s main website, Boston.gov.
Iterators LLC helped the Digital Team test the website to make sure that all of its services and resources were able to be accessed and navigated by those with:
- Low vision, no vision, or color blindness
- Hearing impairment or loss
- Motor or developmental disabilities
- Light-induced epilepsy
- Other physical and sensory impairments
This assessment found a few potential areas for improvement, ranging from sensory characteristics like color contrast, to navigation characteristics, like how users interact with links and buttons. They are currently in the process of tackling these improvements.
The City of Boston relies on input from both City residents and people who visit and work in Boston to make regular improvements to its services. That is no different when it comes to web accessibility. We strive to meet AA compliance, based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the organization that sets web standards. Feedback from both partnerships with groups like Iterators LLC and individual residents help us reach that goal.Keyboard Navigation
For a website to be fully accessible, users should be able to exclusively use a keyboard — rather than a mouse — to navigate the website. This is particularly important for folks with motor disabilities and vision impairments. Working with Iterators, DoIT staff identified several keyboard navigation issues on Boston.gov. For example, the order of the focus indicator in the Boston.gov footer did not follow a predictable pattern. This makes navigating the page confusing. A left-to-right sequence would be most intuitive. But, a specific navigation path was missing for this section of the website. By ensuring that the keyboard focus highlights elements in an order that is intuitive, the user can more easily navigate the page.Color Contrast
A subscriber to the Disabilities Commission newsletter reported having trouble reading links through our newsletter system. When a Disabilities staff member dug deeper, they found that the problem was stemming from our colors and styling. In some cases certain visual elements were not meeting the color contrast ratio that is standard for accessible text. Working together, the contrast issue in the newsletter as well as across City websites was able to be solved! Thanks to this interaction and others, we decided to take a step back and revisit all of the colors used in our brand guidelines to make sure we were meeting our digital accessibility goals.More to Come
Since there are so many details to this work and the City is addressing each category of issues one at a time, there are many more improvements to come. Stay tuned for more accessibility updates on Boston.gov, including larger font sizes and page color contrast for those with low or no vision and color blindness.
While we’re proud of the latest progress on Boston.gov, we know there is always room for improvement! By the end of the year, the Digital Team, working with the Disabilities Commission and Iterators, will be releasing a Voluntary Product Accessibility assessment to be more transparent for you about the changes we have made and the changes that are yet to be worked on. When that report is released, we look forward to your feedback on the future recommendations we prioritize. We’re looking forward to a more accessible future for Boston.gov, and we’d love to hear from you. If you have any feedback or concerns about web accessibility on City sites, you may always contact the Digital Team at Digital@boston.gov,
If you have any questions or would like more information not related to website accessibility on City sites, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next week, please stay informed and stay safe!
Commissioner Kristen McCosh