September 15, 2004

Webcontent.gov Web Standards

FCW.com reports today that Webcontent.gov wil be unveiled on September 29. This site will help federal agencies put up more uniform content and adhere to laws and best practices for information accessibility.

A GSA official said today that the Interagency Committee on Government Information's Web Content Standards Working Group has produced webcontent.gov to help government Web site designers with standards for publishing federal requirements, laws, regulations and other information.

"While many federal Web sites are superb, others need improvement," said Beverly Godwin, director of the FirstGov Web portal at the General Services Administration and executive sponsor for the working group. "Up until now, no one has pulled together in one place all the requirements for federal Web sites." Godwin spoke today at a GSA lunch honoring the fourth anniversary of FirstGov.gov.

Webcontent.gov will explain the laws and regulations Web managers should know, in addition to describing best practices. The site includes a discussion, a listserv and a library link.

Source: FCW.com, September 15, 2004

Posted by Ray Matthews on September 15, 2004 at 03:49 PM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!

February 19, 2004

Free Software for Section 508 Compliance

The General Services Administration is now offering at their Section 508 site their free STEP508 software to help government agencies prioritize what they need to do to make their Web sites accessible.

The Simple Tool for Error Prioritization for Section 508 compliance is now available for federal and other Webmasters to use. This electronic tool uses the output of Section508 compliance tools and evaluates the accessibility errors to determine both the severity of the errors and the effort to fix them. In addition, STEP508 provides a metric that can be tracked over time to determine the level of your Web site's conformance to the 508 guidelines.

Download STEP508: http://www.section508.gov/step

Posted by Ray Matthews on February 19, 2004 at 12:09 PM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!

January 16, 2004

Check Accessibility from Your Toolbar

Steve Faulkner recently released a tool for Internet Explorer called the Accessibility Toolbar. It provides one-click access to accessibility validators and has features that go beyond simple accessibility checks. Nigel Peck at accessify.com says, "after a brief try I highly recommend this toolbar for anyone involved in building accessible sites; the tools are very useful."

Posted by Ray Matthews on January 16, 2004 at 03:55 PM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!

September 25, 2003

Brown University E-Government Ratings

The newly released Urban E-Government, 2003 report from Brown University's Center for Public Policy ranks Salt Lake City 7th in the nation in their analysis of 1,933 city government websites. Salt Lake City ranked 37th in 2002.

Salt Lake City sites received high marks for their low reading level grade (1st place), the high percentage of services executable online, availability of publications and data on all sites, support of secure credit card transactions for most services, and links to security and privacy policies from nearly all pages.

Brown University's State and Federal E-Government study of 1,603 state government websites reports that the State of Utah, as a whole, fell to 17th after placing 10th last year.

Utah ranked highly in providing links to its security and privacy policies. The reviewers found that 97% of agency sites provided publications and 74% provided information in databases. The State ranked poorly, however, in reading level (grade 11.7 or 50th place), accessibility compliance (47th with only 14% of state sites in compliance), and online services (0.7 per website or 46th). The ranking difference between Utah and front-running Massachusetts is primarily because the Commonwealth provides links to their 48 online services in their state header. This is an easy fix that might take Utah Interactive all of about five minutes to put in place (hint, hint).

In terms of federal agencies, top-rated websites include FirstGov (the U.S. portal), Federal Communications Commission, Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Library of Congress, Postal Service, Dept. of Treasury, and Securities and Exchange Commission. The lowest-rated sites are the various federal circuit courts of appeals. The new Homeland Security Department scores in the lower third of federal agencies.

The evaluation paid more attention this year to online services, the handling of privacy and security, and offering disability access.

After reviewing the Center for Public Policy's evaluations, here are some simple suggestions that webmasters can follow to get our state and cities ranked higher next year:

  1. Use the Flesch-Kincaid tests that come with Word and WordPerfect to keep documents to an 8-9th grade reading level
  2. Test your pages periodically with Bobby for W3C and Section 508 accessibility compliance
  3. Provide robust Privacy AND security policies (including policy on sharing personal information), and prominently link them from every page
  4. Continually evaluate and improve performances
  5. Identify your online services, list them (quantity does matter), categorize them, and make them easy to navigate to from the banner headers; for bonus points, include a few novel services
  6. Identify all the forms you have and make sure that all or most can be submitted online
  7. Support SSL and allow citizens to do financial transactions with credit cards (currently 71% for state agencies), and digital signatures (now 0%)
  8. Identify and provide easy access to publications and databases
  9. Provide foreign language features such as "En Espanol" links for all your key services and publications
  10. Lower the gross number and percentages of services that restrict access such as requiring user fees and passwords (Utah is currently in 42nd place with 29% of sites having restrictions)
  11. Go beyond email links (we rank high with 89%) with easy to use comment boxes and alert services to facilitate contact access and public feedback from every page; currently 11% of state sites over comment facilities, 17% offer updating; and 0% offer personalization
  12. Eliminate commercial advertising if you have any
  13. By all means, be sure you have standardized headers, site map, and a site search


    In the "if you can't be 'em, learn from 'em" department, take a look at FirstGov and these five top-ranked cities:

    • Denver recognized for its clear layout and organization with easy navigation to all citizen services;
    • Charlotte with a plethora of fully executable services, a database that allows a user to access property information and demographic information for any address, a noteworthy security policy, and a comments box on every page that sends form data direct to the page author;
    • Boston noted for its uncluttered and aesthetic appearance, information organized into sections for residents, businesses and visitors, and site personalization and email updates;
    • Louisville cited for its easy navigation and compliance to Section 508 and W3C accessibility standards, Secure Sockets Layer protocol to safeguard personal information, and easy to use dropdown menu to city services; and
    • Nashville recognized for its content rich abundance of publications and databases.

    See also: State E-government press release | Urban E-government press release | PDF version of the full State E-Government report | PDF version of the full Urban E-Government report | Govering.com state report | Governing.com city report | Brown Policy Reports archives, 2001-03 | Government Computer News (GCN)

    Posted by Ray_Matthews on September 25, 2003 at 12:02 PM | | Comments (2) | Send this story to a friend!

June 16, 2003

Michael Sauers Web Training - Don't Miss!

Our two Michael Sauers web design seminars our rapidly filling up. Michael is the author of XHTML Essentials and the forthcoming XHTML and CSS Essentials for Library Web Design, and he teaches Internet and Web design workshops full-time for BCR. Don't delay if you're interested in attending.

July 11 -- Web Design: Designing for Accessibility -- 9-12 a.m. -- Utah State Library
This half-day seminar addresses a variety of accessibility issues and demonstrates how good web design can minimize the problems that impaired users have in using Internet-based library resources. Fee: $10.00.

July 11 -- Web Design: Moving from HTML to XHTML -- 1-4 p.m. -- Utah State Library
Welcome to the new generation of Web-based publishing. HTML has been completely rewritten and is now called XHTML. Spend this half-day in a hands-on environment learning about this new version and the hows and whys of migrating to it on your Web site. Fee: $10.00.

You can register for these from the gilsUtah training page.

Posted by Ray_Matthews on June 16, 2003 at 09:49 AM | | Comments (3) | Send this story to a friend!

May 27, 2003

Summer Seminars for Webmasters

The State Library is pleased to announce two half-day summer seminars for Webmasters taught by Internet authority Michael Sauers. Michael teaches Internet and Web design workshops for BCR, and is the author of XHTML Essentials.

Web Design: Designing for Accessibility, July 11, 2003 (9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon), addresses a variety of accessibility issues and demonstrates how good web design can minimize the problems that impaired users have in using Internet-based library resources. Workshop Fee: $10.00.

Web Design: Moving from HTML to XHTML is offered July 11, 2003, 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Welcome to the new generation of Web-based publishing. HTML has been completely rewritten and is now called XHTML. Spend time in a hands-on environment learning about this new version and the hows and whys of migrating to it on your Web site. Workshop Fee: $10.00.

Both seminars will be held at the Utah State Library Computer Training Lab, 250 N. 1950 W., Salt Lake City. For more information, contact K. C. Benedict, Continuing Education Coordinator at 800-662-9150, 801-715-6744, or kbenedic@utah.gov.

Posted by Ray_Matthews on May 27, 2003 at 02:53 PM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!

Web Accessibility Software Downloads

Last Wednesday, Tom Sweet of HiSoftware provided a brief demo of AccVerify, AccRepair, and AccMonitor Server to the eDG group meeting at the Utah State Office Building. If you are interested in Web accessibility, you may interested to know that trial downloads of these products are available for evaluation.

If you work for Utah State Government and would like to download these trial packages, please contact Ray Matthews, 715-6752, for the needed URL and passwords. They come with step-by-step tutorials.

HiSoftware also has an Accessible Form Creator which you can download (no registration required). The Form Creator is intended to make creating accessible forms easy, regardless of the skill of the developer. It is designed for creating accessible HTML code related to the design, appearance, accessibility and usability for the form. From there, a web developer can then code the back-end functionality of the form, whether CGI programs, FrontPage Extensions or other methods are used to get the form to perform its actions. Please review the documentation for your Web editing programs, web server and other web technology you are using in order to complete these "back-end" configurations.

Posted by Ray_Matthews on May 27, 2003 at 01:40 PM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!

May 16, 2003

Federal Agency Complies with Sec. 508

Sabrina I. Pacifici notes the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has announced itself as the first federal agency to fully comply with the provisions of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The USPTO�s Section 508 program is a model for other federal agencies with its success based on three principles� creating awareness, placing responsibility and ensuring enforcement.

Any Utah State Agency with a website in compliance with Section 508 should toot its horn by contacting Lou Reinwand at the State Library.

Posted by Ray_Matthews on May 16, 2003 at 03:29 PM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!

May 13, 2003

State Accessibility Comparisons

The Information Technology and Technical Assistance Training Center (ITTATC) has released their Overview of State Accessibility Laws, Policies, Standards and Other Resources Available On-line.

This site is a handy list of the laws, policies, standards, and other resources related to accessibility of websites, application development, IT procurement, and public hardware. Use it to compare Utah's implementation of federal Section 508 regulations and W3C standards to those of other states.


Posted by Ray_Matthews on May 13, 2003 at 02:16 PM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!

States not on same page with Section 508

While states all over the place in adopting Web accessibility guidelines, Utah is among more than a dozen that have adopted some version of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act as the state Web accessibility standard. Industry is now asking these states to please adopt VPAT [voluntary product accessibility template]. Terry Weaver, director of the Center for Information Technology Accommodation in the General Services Administration (GSA), is eager to reach out to state and local government to assist.

... Read more in this month's Government Technology

Posted by Ray_Matthews on May 13, 2003 at 01:42 PM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!

May 06, 2003

Web Accessibility Developments

Dave Fletcher reports today in Government and Technology Weblog, that Utah CIO Val Oveson has, in a memo to state agencies, "reconfirmed the State's commitment to website accessability standards. The Utah State Library is supporting the effort by providing third party assessments of agency compliance and training for agency personnel." Lou Reinwand at the State Library is coordinating this Section 508 Compliancy Program and training.

Yesterday, the State Library was contacted by HiSoftware Company regarding possible statewide licensing of AccMonitor Server, AccVerify, and AccRepair desktop client for Utah state agencies. Although we've been reviewing AccMonitor with them since last November, the licensing offer is new. The State of Kentucky, through their Governor's Office for Technology, negotiated a similar deal last month.

Those unaquainted with these products may appreciate two recent reviews appearing in TechRepublic of AccVerify and AccMonitor. HiSoftware has offered to provide a short online demo of these products to the monthly eDG meeting.

The State Library's Section 508 Accessibility Training scheduled for May 13 is being rescheduled because one of our instructors, Colleen Eggett, will be out for the week for her daughter's wedding. Please contact Lou for information about attending future training.

Posted by Ray_Matthews on May 06, 2003 at 03:55 PM | | Comments (0) | Send this story to a friend!