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Massachusetts Accessibility Officer Shares Holistic Approach

Ashley Bloom, the state's first chief IT accessibility officer, shared that she is approaching the role with the mindset that accessibility should be integrated into all of the state's IT work.

A light source illuminates a room through an open door with floating cyan symbols representing code or tech.
In July 2023, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey signed an executive order establishing the chief IT accessibility officer role within the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS). In January 2024, Ashley Bloom was appointed and set to work.

That work, Bloom explained, began with assessing the state of the state — analyzing what the state is doing well, what it is doing well that can be scaled or expanded, and what areas can or need to be improved.

After all, for government to serve constituents equitably, accessibility work needs to go beyond just compliance.

To gain an understanding of where the gaps are, Bloom is working with accessibility stakeholders across state agencies as well as with the newly established Digital Accessibility and Equity Governance Board — also created by Healey’s July 2023 executive order. This approach will help inform strategic direction in a way that garners optimal buy-in from different agencies with a vested interest in improving government products and services.

Bloom comes to EOTSS with private-sector experience at companies including Fidelity Investments and UKG, experiences which she said have provided her with invaluable knowledge in this arena.

“This has really provided me with a foundation of what I can do at the state of Massachusetts to start integrating accessibility into everything we do — not just creating products, but creating a holistic experience for residents and employees,” Bloom said.

In addition to her professional experience and perspective, Bloom said that she also sees accessibility through a personal lens as a person with a disability, which provides the additional perspective of lived experience.

“I want to take accessibility and treat it as a human-centered approach to buying, building, and creating products and services,” she said, adding that access should be provided to all “no matter their ability.”

The scope of IT accessibility is a wide one, she noted, involving everything from procurement to program creation. The Digital Accessibility and Equity Governance Board is a key part of this work. The board is created from high-level agency representatives, like CIOs and operating officers, that can influence both accessibility and policy within their agencies.

The board was created with both these agency representatives and stakeholders outside of government to ensure diverse perspectives to understand and address accessibility needs.

“It's very imperative to make sure that we have multiple perspectives and commentary and feedback to really create a well-rounded, holistic approach to each of these accessibility strategies that I plan to implement and execute,” she said.

Buy-in from state leadership has been foundational to this effort, Bloom said, underlining the importance of leaders taking a proactive approach to access rather than treating it as an afterthought or a requirement.

“Creating an accessibility position that has influence at the executive level is really imperative to strengthen that approach and mindset of user centricity,” Bloom said.

Looking ahead, Bloom is eager to develop a plan for the state to make both the state government and the municipal governments within the state accessible. She hopes her work with Massachusetts will serve as a model that can be replicated in other states.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.