Photo by AustinTexas.gov
Thursday May 26th, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki
According to a recent report from the City Auditor’s Office, the city has moved slowly to make its website as accessible and useful as possible for residents and fails to meet federal principles to ensure usability for people of all abilities.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the City Council’s Audit and Finance Committee, staff presented a follow-up report on a pair of audits conducted in 2013 and 2017 that found the city needed to develop a comprehensive planning process, assign website-related responsibilities, and increase services offered while improving accessibility across the site.
One of the two recommendations issued in 2013 has been completed and another is still in progress, while two of the four recommendations from the 2017 audit have been completed, leaving service offerings and accessibility elements still in progress .
A recent test of austintexas.gov found that its performance in three categories – the ability to find key information quickly, easy navigation, and the intuitiveness of its setup – had declined compared to a similar test in 2017. The site improved its usability for tools and information devices used by those with disabilities.
The update said, in part, “When we retested the city’s website, we found that all of the retested online services can be done online, up from 75% in 2017. We also found that some of the online services are still not easy to find or use. . Although the city’s website still does not meet the requirements of three of the four principles, namely noticeable, usable and understandable, some improvements have been made to make it usable with current and future tools or devices to help people of all capacities.
Staff told committee members that work is underway to make the site more accessible, with a request for proposals underway to select a vendor to handle translation duties to make the site accessible to non-English speakers.
Chris Stewart, the city’s chief information officer, said there have been two recent behind-the-scenes upgrades to improve the site’s security, with search engine optimization underway to help make its content more easily accessible to community members seeking information.
Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter pressed Stewart for improvement deadlines, to which he replied that the site is a continuous work in progress, with work underway to add more services that residents can access online.
“We hear fairly frequently from constituents and community members expressing their frustration with how difficult it is to navigate the city’s website and how difficult it is to access information,” Alter said, later referring to a discontinued pilot program to create a site specifically for resident needs and services. offerings.
“There’s a history of this process that wasn’t really covered in the audit discussion. We were doing a much deeper dive on the whole alternative website and we chose not to go ahead with that and what I want to understand better is what is the approach that we use at a more macro level to achieve the same goal.
Stewart said pairing city communications staff with the office of technology management helped improve progress on the site, and the decision to offer everything on the same site instead of splitting into two allowed for some value for money.
“We had a pilot site focused on citizens and residents, and we had to make a decision and say AustinTexas.gov was our website and that’s where we want to put our full attention. A lot has happened in the past year that hadn’t happened in previous years. Scores are increasing and I could be happier with satisfaction with our website and accessibility in particular.
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