IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Maryland Launches Push to Widen Accessibility to State Tech

The state has brought together agency staff to figure out ways to make its website and digital services more accessible to people with disabilities. The work reflects wider trends in gov tech, including public safety.

The front of the Maryland Statehouse.
The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission is developing a modern web-based and intelligent system for filing and managing workers’ compensation claims.
Maryland is pressing the gas on its push to make state websites and digital services more accessible to people with disabilities.

The state, with help from its Department of Information Technology, has launched what officials are calling the Accessibility Officer Initiative. The effort included a recent training session for executive agency staff to learn about the latest trends “about accessible design and how they can gradually lead its implementation at their agency,” according to a statement.

Those “accessibility officers” now will serve as “vital points of connection” among state departments and workers as they strive to build websites and digital services that better meet the needs of people who are blind or deaf, or have cognitive or other disabilities.

Up to 22 percent of Maryland’s population has at least one disability, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with mobility and cognitive disabilities the most common.

As described in the statement, Maryland has tended to build its state website and digital services based on specific needs of agencies. That has resulted in “varying levels of accessibility.”

“Accessible digital design is critically important to over one million Marylanders with disabilities,” said Katie Savage, secretary of the Maryland Department of Information Technology, in the statement. “This Accessibility Officer Initiative is an important step towards making Maryland’s digital services more accessible so that more Maryland residents and employees can access government services and resources.”

The push for more accessibility — project collaborators also include the Department of Disabilities and the Office of State Procurement — involves several specific steps, including the release of the state’s first Digital Accessibility Report.

Officials also plan to build web templates and design patterns that agencies can use.

The effort in Maryland reflects growing awareness in government technology that people with disabilities often require tools to fully access civic services, including public safety.

For instance, a new partnership involving Google and RapidSOS is designed to make it easier for people who have disabilities to describe their emergency situations to 911 call takers.

As well, a recent update to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act promises to spark further attention to accessibility for government services and content.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to show that agency staff, not necessarily leadership, attended the accessibility sessions.