Jan. 24, 2020

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams introduced legislation today with Council Member Diana Ayala aimed at expanding, updating and enforcing digital accessibility for New York City agencies. The bill, Intro 1861, would enhance requirements for city government website accessibility, standards which several agencies have failed to meet. It would also establish the position of Digital Inclusion Officer, a designated employee within each city agency, to coordinate efforts to ensure accessibility of agency websites and any other public digital content.

Making websites more digitally inclusive and accessible includes measures such as font size and spacing, color and image usage, and other display issues. It also includes issues of content and data preservation and notification, among many other improvements to user interface, in line with the updated Website Content Accessibility Guidelines, which have a goal of improving accessibility guidance for users with cognitive and learning disabilities, users with low vision, and mobile accessibility.

"Our city's accessibility issues extend beyond the need for physical improvements to the need for digital upgrades." said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. "There are simple changes that can better enable users to access and utilize the city's resources, removing barriers and advancing equity. Establishing a Digital Inclusion Officer will help agencies adapt to changing needs and technologies on an ongoing basis and ensure compliance with these basic standards."

The functions of the designated Digital Inclusion Officer, who would work in concert with the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, would include, but are not limited to:

  • Reviewing agency websites and public digital content for compliance with standards;
  • Developing agency policies to ensure compliance;
  • Conducting periodic training for relevant agency staff on digital inclusion and website accessibility;
  • Documenting and responding to complaints related to digital inclusion; and
  • Providing analysis and recommendations to the head of agency and Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities to resolve related issues.

New York City government websites must currently adhere to Local Law 26 of 2016, which requires NYC agencies to make a reasonable effort to make their websites accessible as established by the Website Accessibility Initiative. However, according to the 2019 New York City Digital Accessibility Report, an audit of City websites showed an average accessibility score of 82.5% for all City run websites. There are eleven agency websites that still use an old template for their web content, which averaged a low score of 61.6% in terms of website accessibility.

"New Yorkers with disabilities often face difficulty navigating agency websites because of their inaccessibility. As a result, they cannot access critical information and resources they could benefit from - which is antithetical to our City's values of being inclusive and equitable,"' said Council Member Diana Ayala, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction. "This legislation would render our City a leader in providing accessible digital content and pave the way for other municipalities to follow. As Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction, I am thrilled to co-sponsor this legislation and I look forward to working alongside Public Advocate Williams to ensure a successful passage."

"We are honored to have been invited by the Public Advocate to participate in the crafting of this legislation," said Michael J. Schweinsburg, President of the 504 Democratic Club. "Jumaane is cognizant of the fact that people with disabilities are relatively more reliant on the internet and determined that with this important legislation he would set the highest standards possible for website accessibility.  With the passage of this legislation people with disabilities will be far more empowered to pursue opportunities in education, employment, healthcare, transportation, housing and learn of all other information and benefits New Yorkers can achieve through communication with their City government."

"Public Advocate Williams legislation creates a sustainable framework for timely digital information for people with disabilities," said Elisabeth Salzhauer Axel, President and CEO of Art Beyond Sight. "It will enhance communication between city agencies and people with disabilities, leading to increased community engagement for all."


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