Assessing Texas State Agency Web Sites for Minimal Web Site Accessibility Standards
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This applied research project serves as an evaluation of the status of the level of compliance with established Web site guidelines by selected state agencies. The project includes a survey of the literature relevant to Web site accessibility. The literature includes criteria that are organized into five categories for accessibility: elements for the disabled document accessibility, privacy, HTML documents, and increased accessibility elements. The project organizes and summarizes the data collected from content analysis of 25 Texas State agency Web sites. All agencies selected vary in function.
The focus of this applied research project is on the accessibility guidelines established by the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) and a study by Brown University entitled, "Assessing E-Government: The Internet, Democracy, and Service Delivery by State and Federal Governments." The DIR criteria are established pursuant to Senate Bill 801, passed in the 1999 Texas Legislative Session. The guidelines are established to assist agencies increase the accessibility of their Web sites and the information contained on those sites.
The purpose of this research is to assess the level of compliance of Texas State agencies with the accessibility guidelines. A content analysis was chosen as the tool for assessing the selected state agencies. A practical ideal type was established from the DIR and Brown University data. The Web sites were reviewed individually for the content of the elements in each of the categories.
Almost every state agency in Texas hosts a Web site. Each individual agency has the discretion to use any type of design desired to create a Web presence. Before the DIR effort, state agencies had no real direction to consider a general format for agency Web sites. The guidelines established by DIR attempt to bring general uniformity to the structure of state agency Web sites. The reality, however, is that the guidelines are non-binding: i.e., an agency is not required to follow these guidelines.
This study takes a look at how well the selected state agencies are following the recommended guidelines established by DIR. The greater the compliance of an agency, the greater the level of accessibility to the agency's resources by the general public and the population with visual disabilities. Although several agency Web sites were found to be generally accessible, many did not include a minimal level of elements for accessibility. Agencies should be held accountable to develop and maintain Web sites that are accessible to a wide population. This will increase uniformity among agency sites and help individuals using these sites access information and resources more easily.