ADA COMPLIANCE IN CITY GOVERNMENT WEBSITES
Cities in Florida need to make sure their websites comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. After a Daytona Beach man filed an accessibility lawsuit against Flagler County and won, all counties in Florida need to take action to make sure that not only their government buildings are accessible but also their websites according to Government Technology.
30 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, lawsuits are on the rise and government websites need to ensure that their websites are just as accessible as other services. People with visual or hearing impairments are also filing lawsuits claiming that their government websites violate the Americans with Disabilities Act because they cannot use these websites.
One visually impaired person in Daytona Beach filed a suit because the screen reader software wasn’t compatible with a portable document format, or PDF and much of the website’s content was in PDF format. These lawsuits are becoming more frequent and city governments are paying out large settlement amounts.
There is much that can be done to make it easier for people with disabilities to access these websites.
Katherine Kyp, Planning coordinator of the Deltona City Commission meeting said, “These new added features enhance the experience and increase compliance with ADA and Section 508 requirements: https://www.access-board.gov/the-board/laws/rehabilitation-act-of-1973#508.
Deltona has formed an ADA Committee and is looking for ways to make all of the city’s documents and media accessible by all people including offering closed captioning services.
Many cities in Florida are taking documents and streaming services down until they are able to come into compliance to avoid potential lawsuits.
The Center for the Visually Impaired recommends that website development follow the guidelines by the World Wide Web Consortium: .https://www.w3.org/
OPEN GOVERNMENT MAKES FOR A TRUSTING COMMUNITY
The days of stacks of papers accumulating from meetings and keeping files upon files in drawers are behind us. The man power alone just to maintain all the paperwork involved can be very costly. Automated government organizations need accessible records in an easily searchable format to help board members and citizens find exactly what they’re looking for, while reducing the number of public record requests the clerks get each day. When new content is made available, board members need to be able to receive notifications and they also need to be able to easily review updates online or offline either before or after meetings.
The public also needs to be able to access public documents, agendas, and minutes of meetings. This makes for an open government and a trusting community.
Citizens need the opportunity to engage and participate in live video feeds of meetings. Board members who miss a meeting should be able to quickly search the meeting archive and watch past recordings. The days of searching through paper files are obsolete, in this day and age you should be able to download only those agendas, minutes and documents you want from your search results.
Citizens and board members should be able to access meeting content and documents from any desktop or mobile device. This would be a major advantage for staff members when they are out of the office.
The following is a list of decision-making information that should be available by local governing bodies, boards and commissions:
- Information on agency decision making and advisory bodies
- Explanation of the local agency’s decision-making process and how to participate in it
- Brief explanation of how each body fits into the decision-making process
- Performance measures
- Regular meeting schedule for each body
- Agendas and supporting materials for upcoming meetings
- Minutes and agendas for past meetings
- Archive of video and/or audio recordings of meetings, when available
- Explanation of how an interested member of the public can participate in meetings
- How to apply to be on a board, commission or committee
- Contact information for staff who can answer questions about any of the above information
- Meeting notices, agendas, documents and minutes for all upcoming and ongoing agency public engagement activities