This article was originally posted on the USAGov blog. Claire Loxsom is a Program Analyst on USAGov’s Content and Outreach team. All government agencies have a common goal: to serve the public. As the front door to government information and services, we help agencies achieve this goal. We strive to make it easier for the public to find what they need by aggregating and disseminating information about government programs and services.
My team at the Federal Reserve is about to launch our first style guide and now that we have gone through the process and created this valuable resource, I can’t imagine creating another app or website without it. Here’s why your team needs a style guide and lessons learned from our experience. CFPB Design Manual, Page Components: A pair of 50/50 image and text components, as seen on a landing page template.
This post was originally published on the USA.gov blog. An agency information sharing exercise to improve the customer experience, as related to the Office of Products and Programs’ Information Exchange Project Some people experience challenges navigating government services – especially if they need to work with more than one agency. Based on this premise, we set out to find out how agencies could share information with one another to improve the customer experience.
In January 2017, the U.S. Access Board published a final rule updating information technology (IT)accessibility requirements covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which includes IT that is developed, procured, maintained, or used by federal agencies. The Rehabilitation Act is a federal law which requires programs and activities funded by federal agencies to be accessible to people with disabilities, including federal employees and members of the public.
The team behind the U.S. Web Design Standards (the Standards) held their first Ask Me Anything (AMA), in August, to answer questions from their public Slack channel community. There was great excitement in the channel leading up to the chat, and more than 40 new people joined the already robust community of federal, state and local government, higher education, industry, nonprofit, and U.K. and Canada government officials that are interested in working with–and growing–the Standards.
At the beginning of 2017, the ITIF (Information Technology and Innovation Foundation) released a report that benchmarked 300 federal websites in four areas: page-load speed, mobile friendliness, security and accessibility. Some sites fared better than others, but the report highlighted that our federal sites have a ways to go (DigitalGov included) in these areas. Looking at these four metrics is important as they directly impact our customers’ first perceptions of the quality of our government’s digital services.
According to the World Bank, approximately one billion people worldwide live with a disability, making up the world’s largest minority. Designing from an accessibility-first standpoint has the potential to benefit all stakeholders, not just people with disabilities, because accessible design typically delivers a better user experience. Currently many websites and digital platforms are inaccessible, which makes them difficult or impossible for people with disabilities (including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, or neurological) to use.
We hope you are finding it easier to get the information you need on USDA.gov following the launch of our site redesign in March. We’ve already welcomed over 1 million visitors to the new site and we are pleased with the positive feedback we’ve received thus far. Our redesign makes it easier for you to get the news you care about quickly and get on with your busy life. Now, you can explore “USDA in Action,” an area designed to quickly share what’s happening across the department.
As mentioned in our recent Q&A with the team at NASA, the U.S. Web Design Standards team is sitting down with various agencies that are using the Standards. In this second post in our series, we met with the team at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and learned how they used the Standards to train, develop, and design their various websites and applications. Standards team: Why did you decide to use the U.
The U.S. Web Design Standards were created by the government, for the government. They’re currently implemented on hundreds of government sites, with an audience of more than 26 million monthly users. They’ve also been recommended by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for all government agencies to ensure a consistent look and feel of their public-facing digital services. Over the coming months, the team will be doing a series of blog posts to share information about the how different agencies are using the Standards.
The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) recently published a report, Benchmarking U.S. Government Websites, that looks at the performance, security, and accessibility of the top 297 government websites. ITIF is a think tank in Washington, D.C. whose mission is to formulate, evaluate, and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation in technology and public policy. Over the past 90 days, government websites were visited over 2.55 billion times. According to the Analytics Dashboard, 43.
Mythbuster’s Guide to Accessibility: What We’ve Learned About 508 Compliance That All Technologists Can Use
As government technology improves and accelerates, the U.S. Digital Service has the opportunity to improve the most critical public-facing services across agencies. The services and products we create need to be accessible to everyone. Too often, we’ve seen others neglect accessibility because of some common misconceptions that make things difficult. In this post, we’ll debunk these myths, so you can easily create universally accessible content. Myth #1: Government accessibility is harder than it is in the private sector.
The U.S. Web Design Standards are a library of design guidelines and code to help government developers quickly create trustworthy, accessible, and consistent digital government services. Last month, we announced the 1.0 release of the Standards, a milestone that signals the Standards are a stable, trustworthy resource for government designers and developers. By using the well-tested and easy-to-implement code from the Standards, developers can quickly create new websites or have a leg-up in updating existing services to have a modern, consistent feel.
We all do it. Whether on Twitter, Facebook, or the comment section on a news article, it’s easy to get our writing on the internet. Many of us have personal websites or contribute to blogs. We work at organizations with content management systems that allow us to publish pages with a single button click. The fact that it’s so easy to publish content can trick us into thinking it’s equally easy to write useful content.
What does Snapchat, the disappearing message-and-video platform most used by teenagers, have to do with government outreach and communications programs? Well, Snapchat has quickly become an incredibly effective digital storytelling medium, and content creators across multiple government agencies have adopted it as an important part of their programs. A recent New York Times article described how nearly 35 million users in the United States watched highlights and stories from the Summer Olympics on Snapchat.
August 8, 2016, marks the 18th anniversary of the amendment to the Section 508 Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which covers access to information technology in the federal sector. To recognize the importance of IT accessibility, we wanted to highlight some agency initiatives to improve accessibility across the federal landscape. As amended, the Act requires: …access to the federal government’s electronic and information technology. It applies to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use such technology.
Today, I am happy to announce the newly optimized DHS.gov website. Over the past year, DHS has worked behind the scenes to update and modernize our flagship website, making it faster and easier to use. Some of the specific differences you’ll see are: Compatibility for both desktop computers and mobile devices (phones and tablets) Cleaner, easier-to-read site format and presentation Faster and more accurate site navigation using our internal search function and external search engines (like Google and Bing) DHS.
If you were to spend any time with me in the kitchen, you would often find me searching out substitutions for ingredients that I don’t have on hand or have to drive 100 miles to find. I don’t want to abandon the recipe, so I substitute instead. I find that in the world of internal government IT systems, recipes for success are hard to come by. So, what do I do?
Last week, I had a brush with a bona fide music legend — the great Stevie Wonder. Was I starstruck? Of course. I’ve long admired his musical accomplishments and advocacy for people with disabilities. His appearance at the Grammy Awards in February highlighted once again the need to improve accessible technology, particularly in the workplace. What brought me, Stevie Wonder and hundreds of other accessibility advocates together was the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference.
A branch that does not stick to its source of nutrition will wither away and die. Just ask anyone who has received a bouquet of beautiful flowers about how long they really last. In the same way, as communicators we must stay connected to our audience, or we risk the chance of fading away into insignificance. First-time visitors are great, but return visitors are your loyal following. In the argument of whether to target your current audience or seek to grow more, why not stick your focus on equipping your current audience with ways and incentives to share your content?
About a year and a half ago, the Federal Citizen Information Center—today called USAGov—embarked on a very ambitious task: integrating our content operations. We blurred lines that defined silos and adopted a bilingual content approach to offer a more consistent experience, regardless of language preference or point of access to our information. See more about our rebirth. As we were figuring out our new content model, we saw the need to reinvent our style guidelines to reflect our new organization.
One of the biggest things we take into account whenever we consider launching on a new social platform is how we can make the information we share through that tool as accessible as possible. In its current form, Snapchat isn’t a highly accessible platform. This isn’t a problem that’s unique to Snapchat. Many emerging technologies are not up to government accessibility standards, which poses a challenge for the innovative agencies that want to adopt them.
With January, and the tearing off of the old calendar, comes the annual taking stock of where we’ve been in the last year and where we can go in the year ahead. So for this month’s editorial theme, we’re taking a closer look at what we think 2016 will bring for digital government—from mobile and content, to open data and accessibility. If our “prognosticators” are correct, this year will be the year when apps become more Web-like; video could overtake social media as the preferred method to communicate; and the number of sensors providing real-time access to (government) data will dramatically increase…just to name a few.
As we look ahead to 2016, we wanted to take a minute to look at our most popular content in 2015 and reflect on our second year. This was a big year for DigitalGov as we saw our session traffic nearly double and our weekly and daily email subscribers increase by 15%. DigitalGov was also named as a 2015 must-read blog by FedTech magazine, which is due to the great contributions from our guest authors, representing 42 agencies and departments across the federal government!
2015 was a big year for 18F. We almost doubled in size, worked with 28 different agency partners, and released products ranging from Design Method Cards to cloud.gov. Internally, we improved onboarding and our documentation by releasing guides on topics as diverse as content, accessibility, and creating good open source projects. To mark the end of the year, we reached out to everyone at 18F and asked them to reflect on a meaningful project they worked on this year.
“My Disability is One Part of Who I Am” was the theme of the 70th National Disability Employment Awareness Month this past October. We celebrated the many contributions of our friends and co-workers with disabilities and recognized the diverse skills and talents they bring to our workplace. However, the real question is: how do we create a comfortable work environment that provides equal access and growth opportunities for all? The Department of Defense’s Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) created a free app that is available for download at the iTunes App Store and Google Play.
Get your customer personas right, and you will improve the customer experience (CX) for the rest of your audience. That’s advice Rick Parrish from Forrester Research gave in response to an audience question during the September 29 DigitalGov University webinar on the state of CX in the federal government. Your key customers are those that are most important to the organization, and often most difficult to serve, he explained.
Federal agencies do not get a free pass on accessibility for mobile—as we stated earlier this month, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to ALL information and communication technology (ICT). Luckily, there are a number of organizations working on guidelines and practices to help the private and public sectors create accessible mobile websites and applications. The M-Enabling Conference, an annual event dedicated to making mobile technology accessible, brought experts from around the world to talk about guidelines and practices for these efforts.
While examples of government social media content may initially seem like mere fun—the YouTube video of President Obama on Between Two Ferns or the Transportation Security Administration’s “good catch” pics of lipstick stun guns and batarangs—the potential of applied social data to build, evaluate and improve diverse citizen services is only increasing. As we recently discussed on DigitalGov, social media tools are for more than one-way marketing and communication: they provide a connective, responsive capability to public services.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to use accessible information and communication technology (ICT), whether procured, developed, or maintained. Since the U.S. Access Board issued regulations for the law in 2000, much implementation guidance has been prepared by various agencies. While the regulations are being refreshed to account for changes in ICT over the years, we can take advantage of existing guidance that applies accessibility guidelines in contemporary contexts.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohmyOKPSGPg&w=600] Animated gifs are increasingly found throughout the digital experience of today’s users. They offer a dynamic presentation of information in a format that can be both more performance-effective and cost-effective than standard video or images, making them valuable for federal teams looking to bring their programs to the modern digital space and improve customer satisfaction. To find out how animated gifs can be developed to measurably improve public services, we hosted “Essentials of Animated Gifs for Gov” for almost 200 managers in the U.
It’s a forgone conclusion that usability studies are effective in identifying weak points within a website, but what about testing people who are visually impaired? How hard is it to accommodate them? There are some additional challenges that you may encounter when conducting testing with people with disabilities; however, these challenges should not be considered overwhelming. I spoke with Peter McNally, a Senior Usability Consultant at the User Experience Center at Bentley University, to get his take on usability testing with users who have visual impairment.
I used to teach 8th grade science in inner city Denver in the 1990s. After that, I supported special education students and their teachers in North Carolina. Around that time (mid-late 1990s), the Internet wasn’t really designed for kids –most of the electronic materials I came across for the classroom were on CDs and such. After learning more about design, Information Architecture, and now user experience, I began to realize that while digital services for kids looked really good on the outside, on the inside they were awful.
The word accessibility breeds misconceptions. Why? Because accessibility is something that scares you. Accessibility is hard. Accessibility needs people with specialized expertise. Accessibility problems often depend on the context of the website or Web application in question. Accessibility takes time. Accessibility is a legal mandate. Accessibility is a moral obligation. These statements are both true and misconceptions. The misconceptions happen when you try to solve accessibility problems with just accessibility solutions.
Resolutions and predictions abound this time of year. If you’ve already lost the fight to finally give up sardine ice cream, you can always resolve to maintain or improve your digital media accessibility. Some people say that accessibility and Section 508 compliance squashes innovation and new trends, but with the right approach, you can make them accessible. When you consider accessibility at every project’s onset, you’ll make the most of these trends and engage your audience and, perhaps, gain new users.
While we’re anticipating the Section 508 refresh, many government digital media teams are facing the task of incorporating WCAG 2.0 standards (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) in their projects despite having limited staff resources and budget constraints. We can use creative solutions, such as crowdsourcing, to overcome those challenges and make our works accessible. Our teams can call on the public to share their time and skills at events or in projects where they’ll work with others to solve accessibility problems in design, development, content, etc.
Bob goes to a popular federal government site, using his assistive technology, and starts reading a teaser for an article. Just below the teaser, there’s an embedded video on the page. He presses the tab key, trying to navigate to a link for the full article, but suddenly he’s trapped—he can’t tab past the video. He’s stuck, and he can’t access the content. Frustrated, Bob leaves the site.
Happy anniversary, baby! Seventies pop songs aside, July 26, 2014, was the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and on August 7 of this year, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998, will have its 16th anniversary. Sometimes these two laws are mistaken one for the other, but they serve different purposes. The ADA is a law that protects the rights of people with disabilities, by ensuring that they have equal access to the same opportunities, benefits, and services that people without disabilities have.
The Art of Social Media by mkhmarketing CC BY 2.0 The more public information is digitized, the more it lands on or sprouts from social media channels. This is why there needs to be a greater level of awareness and consideration for those who can benefit most from that information—people with disabilities—since they have the least access to it. Like many websites, social media platforms present some of the greatest barriers in digital accessibility.
The Federal #SocialGov Community, a collective of almost 700 digital engagement managers from more than 120 government agencies, marked the 2nd anniversary of our program by releasing a suite of new collaborative services to help us better work together and with partners in the private sector to share resources and build public services of the 21st century. The online event, U.S. Federal SocialGov: 2 years of Smashing Silos + Elevating Citizen Services, focused on how collaborative, open participation in the development process will help public services better tackle performance analysis, policy development, accessibility for persons with disabilities, international partnerships and global digital engagement support.
On Thursday, July 17, the FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative will host a public event called “Accessing Social Media.” The purpose is to promote collaborative, cross-sector problem-solving on how to produce and consume accessible social media, considering authoring tools, client apps, and best practices for various disability constituencies. The event will be held in the Commission Meeting Room at FCC headquarters and will include panels of industry, consumer, and government representatives.
(This is the second installment of an ongoing series charting the programs, events and people that make the emerging field of social media and data in government From where I sit, I think we just had a great week in #socialgov. From a sold-out international forum that demonstrated how we can use free tools to host a world-class event, to milestones in the Defense community and new colleagues in Italy, there are no shortage of great things happening in federal social media — and it will only get better next week.
Usability and accessibility are slightly different lenses to assess user experience. It is possible to be strong in one area and weak in the other. Using either approach alone could result in an inaccurate view of your site’s user experience. Evaluating your website with both usability and accessibility in mind gives all users the best possible user experience. What is Usability? Usability relates to the how easy things are to use.
There has been a shift in consumer behavior during the last few years, a move toward immediacy and convenience, and with the responsive redesign of USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov, consumers can now have access to the same information and services when they need them, and on any platform and device. The number of mobile users is growing rapidly. In 2012 USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov received more than 2.5 million visits from mobile devices, not including tablets.
You’ve seen videos, podcasts, and audio files on your favorite sites—whether they’re government, private sector, or entertainment sites. These are often viral media: media clips that are wildly popular, are shared through blogs or e–mail, produce chatter on the web, and increase traffic to websites. Some government agencies are using this phenomenon, by participating in the “social web,” to further their missions and support the President’s mandate for government agencies to be transparent and collaborative with U.
Guest post by Mario Damiani, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) at the Department of Labor. ODEP spearheads the Social Media Accessibility Working Group within the Federal Social Media Community of Practice. The working group recently released a toolkit for agencies to make their content more accessible for citizens with disabilities, including recommendations from agencies across the federal government and collaborators in Australia. As a representative of the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor, I’ve had the privilege of visiting with numerous individuals and organizations to promote the value of social media accessibility.
Anytime, Anywhere, Any Device. The 21st century imperative to deliver government information and services to the public anytime, anywhere and on any device makes mobile a critical tactic in the federal Digital Government Strategy. Today, GSA’s Digital Services Innovation Center and the Federal CIO Council launch the Mobile Application Development Program to provide agencies with tools they need to make great mobile products available to the public. The program–developed with and by 25 agencies across government–will help agencies in each stage of mobile development.
Introduction USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov use social media to make government information easy for people to find, access, and use. Among the essential tools we use are videos, which we host on USA.gov YouTube and GobiernoUSA.gov’s YouTube channels. We are always looking for opportunities to feature and leverage important government information, by posting videos from various government agencies. We welcome and invite all government agencies to collaborate with us on providing useful and relevant information to the public.
Government videos need to follow two main laws: People with disabilities must be able to fully experience them, and They must adhere to privacy laws 1. Making Video Accessible for People with Disabilities (Section 508) Federal employees are required by law (Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) to make the materials they create usable for people with disabilities. Section 508 applies to video as well. There are three main requirements for making a video 508 accessible.