Results for category "Government"

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Conference talk: ADA accessible transit websites

bus schedule page with image of timetable and route mapPublic transportation serves everyone, but it is especially important for people with disabilities.

Transit agencies have been at the forefront of implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since the beginning. I know how seriously they take their role as a transportation providers for everyone

The accommodations that have received the most time and attention have all been operational – they mostly involve the physical act of taking a bus ride.

What about when someone with a disability wants to plan a bus trip in advance, or needs to lookup a schedule on the fly, when plans change en route? That’s why our websites need to be accessible to everyone, 24-7.

The text of the web page pictured here talks about compliance with the ADA – by offering bus service beyond established bus stops. But the route schedule itself is an image, not text on a web page.  For someone who can’t see, there’s no schedule information on this website.

I was on my way by bike and bus to Port Angeles earlier this year when I came across this issue on the Jefferson Transit website. For the next leg of my trip, I had to download the Clallam Transit schedule PDF on my smart phone, and then try to read it.

That experience prompted my presentation at the State Public Transportation Conference last month: “ADA Accessible Transit Websites.”

My faith that transit professionals care about this issue was reinforced. The top executives of several transit agencies were in the audience, along with communications staff, and staff at rural agencies with four office staff total.

There was also a lot of fear and uncertainty in the room. People want to do the right thing, but it can be hard to know where to start. Especially when you rely on non-transit technical staff to provide your website design and IT support.

User-centered design can help prioritize scarce resources. In the case of transit, what website users care about most is bus schedule information. That’s where I encourage transit agencies to focus their ADA accessibility efforts.

Big improvements in your website aren’t out of reach. I met with Everett Transit at the beginning of the summer about their online bus schedules, which were provided as inaccessible images and PDFs. By their August service change, they had converted every route schedule into an online table – information that is now easier for everyone to read on their website.

There is always more to do to improve a website’s ADA accessibility. Start with being aware of the issue and focusing on what your customers want most.

Accessibility Resources:

Know the Purpose of Your Website

question mark imageWhat is the primary purpose of your government website? It’s good question to answer or revisit as you begin a redesign or review of your website content. Once your staff agree why you are creating website content, it is easier to define what belongs online and how to present it.

Purpose starts with your end users

Ultimately, I believe the purpose of a government website is to serve the needs of individual members of the public who visit – to help your citizen activists, your business people, your occasional visitors accomplish what they want to do.

Government websites should identify an overarching purpose, and also be clear about the purpose of each page of the site. Knowing why your content exists will help you develop – and limit – content so that it is most valued and efficient for your end users.

But you have city, strategic, and business goals, too. Your website needs to balance your internal goals with the needs of your end users.

Design for your website’s purpose

If your purpose is to help people do their government business online, your site might emphasize online payment and form options.

If your purpose is to foster civic engagement, you need to first be clear about what people care about, and how they want to interact. Make meeting information easy to access, post current opportunities for public comment on your Home page and relevant topic pages (not everyone lands on the Home page), use social media for two-way interaction.

Perhaps you want to promote economic development? Make it easy for prospective businesses to find the information and permits they need – and make it clear what other agencies are involved. Whatever you do to promote business, make it sustainable. An outdated list of “available properties” does not make your city attractive.

You government website isn’t

When you know your website’s primary purpose, you can de-emphasize secondary goals. Your website isn’t:

The online equivalent of an organizational chart. Information about every department and its structure may be valuable, but it is not what most people come to you for.

The only repository of public records. Of course, many government documents do belong online. Archives of council minutes and other public documents make information easy for the public to access, saving staff time in filling records requests. But don’t scan original documents so the signature is online just to make it official – that is both unnecessary and turns your text into an image – a very unfriendly way to present online information (accessible to people with disabilities, not immediately translatable into other languages, less clear text to read in general).

The only source of information on your topic. Be careful to focus on what you do and what you know as a government agency. Link to other organizations when they are the authority. People visiting your website have the World Wide Web at their fingertips – let search engines help them answer the rest of their questions.

Be sure to know what your website is. Having a sense of purpose provides both motivation and direction – in websites and in life.



Government Websites & Usability

Usability Matters Most for Government

  1. You provide services and information that people rely upon. Government websites have a responsibility to be accurate and effective.
  2. Government websites are like a monopoly. People have to go through your site to get permits, pay taxes, or access government services. If a commercial website is not user-friendly, the customer simply goes somewhere else to buy.
  3. Save taxpayer money. Answer people’s questions before they call or come in. Collect payments more efficiently. Accept applications electronically.
  4. Maintain your investment. You’ve spent taxpayer money to update and improve your site. Make sure the public continues to get its money’s worth by maintaining content, and testing and improving usability.
  5. Increase compliance with rules and regulations by producing information that is easily understood and acted upon.
  6. Encourage public involvement. Meetings, minutes, surveys, social media discussions– you’ll get more input and engagement when people can find and easily read your information online.
  7. Accessible design. Deliver information that can be accessed by a variety of technologies (phone, tablet, desktop), in many settings (loud, bright, distracting), by all citizens (seniors, people with disabilities using assistive technology).
  8. The federal government does it (or at least tries to). Federal agencies are mandated to improve usability by the Plain Writing Act, the E-Government Act, Section 508 standards that ensure access and inclusion for people with disabilities, and other policies.

More Support for Government Usability

What Is Usability? Links

The value of usability:

“The $300 million button,” by Jared Spool

“ROI Calculator,” by Human Factors International

Government Usability Case Studies,” DigitalGov.Gov

What is usability? Read these definitions:

“What Does Usability Mean? Looking Beyond ‘ease of use,'” by Whitney Quesenbery

“Usability 101” from a founder of usability, Jakob Nielsen

“Using the 5Es to Understand Users,” by Whitney Quesenbery, again – I love her Es!

Comparing designs? Read:

“Define Stronger A/B Testing through UX Research”

“Success Rate Assessment,” which has a good explanation and graphics showing how usability testing can help set design goals