Despite legislative requirements, many Federal websites are not accessible for people with disabilities, a report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) found. The findings present an obstacle for millions of Americans, especially as the pandemic has forced many government services online.
“Web accessibility should be a top priority for the Federal government,” ITIF Vice President Daniel Castro, who co-authored the report, said in a statement.
The report tested 72 Federal websites using a combination of automated tests and qualitative assessments to assess their compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires the General Services Administration to ensure Federal websites are accessible to people with disabilities.
Thirty percent of the websites did not follow modern web accessibility standards on their homepages, and 48 percent failed a standard test on at least one of their three most popular web pages.
“[This] law requires agencies to follow modern standards of web accessibility, but a substantial share of the most popular government sites fail to do so. Many also lack an easy-to-find way for users to report accessibility issues,” Ashley Johnson, a policy analyst at ITIF and co-author of the report, said in a statement.
The lowest-ranking sites identified in the report were the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the Energy Information Administration. In comparison, the highest-scoring sites in the report were the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, and the White House.
The report issued several recommendations on how the government can improve website accessibility. Such as establishing a Federal website accessibility test lab, launching a website accessibility “sprint” to fix known problems, hosting a “hackathon” aimed at developing artificial intelligence solutions for web accessibility, making reports on Section 508 compliance publicly available, and expanding the digital analytics program to offer real-time accessibility testing.