Type of Document Dissertation Author Jaeger, Paul T. URN etd-03062006-120905 Title Multi-method Evaluation of U.S. Federal Electronic Government Websites in Terms of Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Information Studies, College of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Charles R. McClure Committee Chair John Carlo Bertot Committee Member John N. Gathegi Committee Member Stephen D. McDowell Committee Member Keywords
- Rehabilitation Act
- Section 508
- Electronic government
- Persons with Disabilities
Date of Defense 2006-02-07 Availability unrestricted AbstractThis dissertation examined the implementation of the standards of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act on federal electronic government websites. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that federal e-government websites be accessible to persons with disabilities. These accessibility standards were designed to ensure that e-government websites: 1) provide equal or equivalent access to all users, and 2) work compatibly with assistive technologies, such as narrators, scanners, enlargement, voice-activated technologies, and many other devices that persons with disabilities may employ. Section 508 was passed in 1998 and was to have been implemented by 2001.
While some studies have been conducted to assess the accessibility of federal e-government sites, the breadth and depth of issues related to e-government website accessibility has not been adequately examined. This dissertation was a multi-method study of the accessibility of e-government sites in terms of the Section 508 standards that addresses the complexities of accessibility and the reasons for continued inaccessibility on e-government sites. The methods in this study included a law and policy analysis of the standards of Section 508, user testing involving persons with disabilities interacting with e-government websites, expert testing of e-government websites, testing of e-government websites with automated testing software, and a survey of federal web developers regarding their perceptions about accessibility.
The key findings from the dissertation include:
1. Compliance with Section 508 standards varies widely between websites;
2. The level of importance accorded to website accessibility varies between agencies;
3. Agencies oriented toward issues of disability are more likely to have accessible websites;
4. Agencies lack a standardized approach to Section 508;
5. Some e-government websites focus on certain aspects of accessibility;
6. The channels of communication between e-government websites and users need improvement.
7. Agenciesí perceptions about the accessibility of their sites are not entirely accurate;
8. Compliance with Section 508 could be increased with funding and education for web developers; and
9. Commonly accessible e-government sites are still an unfulfilled goal.
Ultimately, this dissertation provided a robust, user-centered portrait of the levels of accessibility of e-government websites, reasons for the current levels of accessibility, and perceptions about accessibility.
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