As government digital efforts continue to grow, improving accessibility of government websites for individuals with disabilities remains a government-wide priority. On March 31, the Office of Science and Technology Policy joined with the General Services Administration’s 18F team, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, and DC Legal Hackers to host a11yhack, a website accessibility hackathon.
Federal websites are, by law, designed to be accessible to everyone — including individuals who are visually impaired, hearing impaired, or have mobility issues. The hackathon was aimed at accessibility — or “a11y” — users, developers, policy makers, and technologists. It featured experts from inside and outside of government discussing their work and an opportunity to collaborate on new and existing projects. The event’s goal was to develop shareable solutions to some of the digital accessibility problems facing government and users today.
For example, one team began working on a 508 Procurement Playbook — a tool intended to assist agency teams as they obtain new systems and technologies to be sure they comply with Section 508, an amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology.
Unlike most hackathons, which are focused primarily on tech tools and solutions, this event also included a policy hackathon breakout which gave many of the government and civil society policy experts an opportunity to discuss existing policies and potential areas for improvement. The policy breakout group developed next steps including a proposed summit to dive deeper into these issues. Additional breakouts offered hands-on demos of tools and systems that government and non-government teams had created.
Going forward, 18F aims to keep the momentum going using a shared collaboration site on Hackpad that is open to the public and captures resources, tools, and ideas from before and during the event, as well as those generated afterward. Please join this important work and help us continue improving upon government websites and processes to make them as accessible as possible to all users including our a11y users.
Corinna Zarek is the Senior Advisor for Open Government to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer
Jeannine Hunter is an Innovation Specialist at 18F within the General Services Administration