If you build it, they will come. When it comes to government services, that is certainly the hope. In a perfect case scenario, if resources are dedicated to providing a city service, the hope is that people in need would hear about it and be able to sign up.
This, however, is oftentimes not the case. Poor website design and accessibility issues being an afterthought can sever part of the target audience. In terms of Web design, some consider it best practice to build for the least capable, technology-adept potential user.
The New York City Center for Economic Opportunity, which is tasked with combatting poverty through innovative programs, launched its revised ACCESS NYC site on March 15. The site prompts users with a simple walk through to determine which social programs they are eligible for by taking into account age, income and employment status. Plain language and graphics are utilized as well as translated sites in Spanish, Arabic, Haitian, Creole, Korean, Russian and Chinese.
The city built the new platform with assistance from Blue State Digital, which helps build online presences for organizations including the NAACP, 100 Resilient Cities, and Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 election campaigns. In keeping with accessibility, the group followed the US Web Design Standards from 18F and the U.S. Digital Service.
“The bigger problems are that a lot of these websites have a lot of information,” Sachin Pavithran, chair of the U.S. Access Board and director of the Utah Assistive Technology Program told Government Technology in September. Often it comes down to how the information is organized. “Even though you can access it, the way the information is laid out could create a barrier because it’s hard to navigate due to the structure. That’s one of the biggest barriers right now: how information is laid out.”