After having pointed out that DeKalb’s new website doesn’t pass accessibility tests and going back and forth with city staff over the issue, I’ve finally remembered something else. I have some related documents on hand that were released by the city in response to a request for information on communications between City of DeKalb and CivicPlus, the website design firm that was ultimately hired February 9.
The following is the accessibility provision from the service agreement signed by Mayor Rey on February 11, 2015 (my emphases):
37. CivicPlus will create the website to comply with all WCAG 2.0 guidelines the Client requires. Upon completion of the site, the Client will be responsible for page content and compliance. Our designers and programmers automatically implement all the accessibility features necessary to ensure your site is compliant with accessibility standards outlined within Section 508. We will make recommendations on best practices for keeping your content accessible for all users by ensuring that, among other things:
All menu items are clickable
Submenus display throughout the site
Alt tags are used for images
Site maps are dynamically generated
Documents and links can be set to open in the same window
CivicPlus recognizes accessibility standards recommendations made by a variety of groups, including the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) as written in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Through adherence to Section 508, CivicPlus is able to meet almost all Priority One, Two and Three guidelines set forth in the WCAG. Those left unmet do not need to be addressed in order to allow basic access to content; some of the more stringent requirements of the WCAG may limit design and content development options.
City of DeKalb signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to follow WCAG 2.0 standards, but then signed a contract with a website designer that does not require the designer to follow WCAG 2.0 standards — in part because accessibility might mess up their pretty design.
A City Narrative and the Aardvark that Ate it
Five Reasons to Believe DeKalb Tried to Hide DOJ Communications about Website Compliance Issues
***Update*** 6/25/2015: I finally got a response to my letter telling council and top management staff about accessibility issues with the newly-launched city website. Someone had handed off the letter to DeKalb’s management analyst, Lauren Stott (one of the staff members who withheld estimates for a simple accessibility fix vs. a complete redesign, despite direct requests for this information from council members). Here’s what she said:
Thanks for your email. The City has worked with CivicPlus to ensure website accessibility is provided for all users. Web-based accessibility checkers such as wave.webaim.org and Powermapper.com access a website’s html code, but aren’t as effective in assessing content customized with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). The City of DeKalb’s website, in its state of being fully customized, heavily utilizes the CSS design language along with html. Therefore, the Web-based accessibility checkers register items on the site as errors, when in fact they just represent a departure from the typical html language the accessibility tools are designed and equipped to assess. In its contract with the City of DeKalb, the website developer has agreed to follow not only Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act but also Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. The portion of the agreement that outlines those specific requirements is included below.
1. While the contract might call for complying with WCAG, that is certainly not what happened. The “Accessibility” page on the website says the site conforms to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, period. Another “tell” is the color contrast problem. Section 508 only mentions contrast in that it requires that applications not interfere with user settings. WCAG 2.0 requires a contrast ratio between text and foreground be set within a certain range. Many pages do not meet this requirement, such as the “Job Opportunities” page that, according to the WAVE checker, contains 27 contrast errors between background and link text.
2. Since Mac McIntyre introduced us to the WAVE accessibility tool, Mac sent Stott’s explanation to WAVE. Here’s what their representative had to say:
WAVE evaluates page accessibility after CSS has been applied and account for CSS in identifying potential accessibility issues. The developer’s explanation is not accurate. Each of the errors identified by WAVE indicate an actual end user accessibility issue.
I told Lauren Stott I didn’t wish to discuss this anymore with a person whose word I can’t take at face value. Then I invited city council members to send Stott’s explanation to accessibility checker websites for themselves.
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Original Post Read the rest of this entry
On the February 9 DeKalb city council meeting agenda was this action item:
2. Resolution 2015-011 Waiving Competitive Bidding and Authorizing the Execution of a Website Design Agreement with CivicPlus in an Amount not to Exceed $56,189 in Year One.
Staff said they didn’t have time to put out Requests for Proposals (RFPs). They claimed they’d been taken totally by surprise by Department of Justice findings that the city’s website was not compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards and needed to act this instant to meet a tight deadline in June.*
Did the city council pass the resolution? I honestly don’t know. The discussion took one hour, twenty-six minutes and there were several votes taken, including one that I described in my notes as “original motion, DEAD, 9:07.” I could be wrong. At any rate, council still continued to talk and vote until an expenditure up to but not exceeding something around $51,000 was passed 5-3.
There’s another potential issue besides the possible zombie motion, too. Waiving bidding on a public improvement (as opposed to routine procurement) of $20,000 or more generally requires a 2/3 majority to pass. So do some budget amendments, and the CivicPlus deal definitely did blow the website budget of $20,000. I’m not sure what the exception was that allowed for a simple majority vote in this case.
Lest you think I’ve totally lost it, let me tell you I’m not the only one. Staff have not been able to get the minutes right for this meeting and the culprit is the CivicPlus discussion. Right now we’re awaiting the second revision. Read the rest of this entry
DeKalb County put its new website online this week.
The county says the overhaul was not made in response to the Illinois Policy Institute’s recent grade of D-, but has been in the works for about a year.
DeKalb County has put lots online for quite some time, but finding it or even getting a real sense of what all is there could be a problem. Read the rest of this entry
The Illinois Policy Institute recently re-tested government website transparency in DuPage County’s York Township and released results last week.
Dubbed “The Local Transparency Project,” grades are based on the availability to the public of vital community information such as public meeting schedules, government employee salaries and tax rates. Since the project was launched by the Institute in February 2010, more than 160 government entities have been graded.
The government entities that scored above 80 percent were: DuPage County, Elmhurst School District 205, DuPage High School District 88 and the municipalities of Elmhurst, Hinsdale, Downers Grove and Lombard. The village of Lombard, in fact, maintained a score of 100 percent that initially awarded in May 2012.
Almost all of the websites gained points the second time around, and the top sites made such improvement as to suggest conscious responses to the first test.
And it’s not just about uploading content, but organizing it in such a way that it is easy to find.
The Village of Lombard website is tops for several reasons. Redundancy is one. For example, you can get to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) information and forms from both the “How Do I…?” menu on the front page, and via the “Online Forms by Department” menu. An “A-Z” index is also available, which is how I found out the village offers extra goodies for residents, such as a directory of local contractors who meet village requirements for insurance and so on. Read the rest of this entry
The first task was to select a grading system. The Sunshine Review Transparency Checklist seemed like a good place to start, but its City Websites wiki page lists criteria that are different from the checklist used for rankings and awards. It was confusing, and left the impression that check registers and ethics were casualties of a list determined to remain at 10 and only 10 items no matter what.
The Illinois Policy Institute’s 10-Point Transparency Checklist was developed in consultation with Sunshine Review so checklist items, rationales and examples are quite similar, but there is greater consistency of information across pages. IPI additionally employs a scoring rubric based on a possible 100 points, which makes the obsession with 10 a bit more understandable. It also generates greater confidence that two audits of the same website at the same point in time would score pretty much the same. IPI also forgoes ethics policy posting requirements, but did manage to save check register criteria by consolidating the elected officials with the administrative.
Without further ado: Read the rest of this entry