Case Study: City of Portsmouth, VA boosts access to online citizen services
The City of Portsmouth, VA is leading the way in digital services for citizens. How did the City meet and exceed regulatory requirements related to the accessibility of online services for citizens of all abilities?
The AudioEye Solution
The City modernized its websites with a proven web hosting and content management platform from CivicPlus, incorporating a cutting-edge accessibility solution from AudioEye. Today, all visitors to the City’s website can activate powerful accessibility tools at the touch of a button, while automated scanning and expert engineers from AudioEye help rapidly detect and remediate back-end issues.
Every year, digital services become more tightly entwined in the day-to-day lives of millions of Americans. For the City of Portsmouth, VA, the growth of the digital channel represents an opportunity to deliver more effective and responsive municipal services to all citizens.
Daniel Jones, Chief Information Officer at the City of Portsmouth, begins: “Over the past decade, we’ve seen IT shift from an internal service to an integral component of our citizen-facing services. In addition to providing free Wi-Fi in the City Center, we now offer websites and mobile apps that allow citizens to apply for permits, pay property taxes, find out about events in their local area and more.”
Enables full compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, delivering equality of access to online services.
Enhances usability, providing a fully featured Toolbar and Compliance certification.
Delivers continuous scanning for accessibility issues, helping to ensure rapid detection and remediation as web content changes and accessibility standards evolve.
Going above and beyond
Title II of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 mandate government organizations to provide equal access to services for people living with disabilities. Today, this legislation applies to the digital as well as the physical world—making online accessibility a must for government organizations.
“To fulfill our mission of delivering exceptional services to citizens, our websites and mobile apps must be reliable, available and accessible to all,” continues Daniel Jones. “While the ADA and Rehabilitation Act represent major steps forward in equity of access for people with disabilities, we knew that meeting the spirit—not just the letter—of the law would be crucial to actually make a difference in peoples’ lives. We wanted to go beyond the minimum requirements for regulatory compliance and deliver the same outstanding digital experience to all users, regardless of their abilities.”
Building on solid foundations
Like many forward-looking local government organizations, the City of Portsmouth relies on the CivicPlus platform—a leading third-party solution and AudioEye partner—to host, maintain and manage its online content.
“Using the CivicPlus platform and the CivicEngage content management solution empowers our departments to publish their own content, which frees IT specialists to focus on developing value-added services,” comments Daniel Jones. “In partnership with CivicPlus, we explored the best way to meet and exceed the accessibility requirements of Title III and Section 508.”
After a thorough review of several accessibility solutions, the City of Portsmouth selected AudioEye Managed. Combining both automated and human-led back-end scanning for potential code and content issues with a proven front-end Toolbar, the AudioEye solution offers an end-to-end approach to digital accessibility.
“When CivicPlus showed us the AudioEye solution, we immediately recognized its potential to transform the digital experience for users with disabilities,” recalls Daniel Jones. “Crucially, the AudioEye solution is continually scanning our websites, which enables CivicPlus to rapidly detect and remediate potential accessibility issues. What also struck us was how effective the AudioEye Accessibility Toolbar is for enhancing usability. Using the Toolbar, users can dynamically change the presentation of the website, including changing font, text color and contrast settings.”
Activation Site Menu
Page Elements Menu
Enhance Keyboard Support
Voice (if applicable)
Utilize Verbal Commands
We are 100 percent confident we’ve found a partnership that will support our digital accessibility requirements for the long term."
Chief Information Officer, City of Portsmouth
Fast track to compliance
From day one of signing up with AudioEye, the City of Portsmouth was protected from legal action and rapidly improving its accessibility. Shortly after, the City had successfully deployed the AudioEye Toolbar to all four of its digital properties. After full implementation, the City attained full AudioEye Trusted Certification—detailing and validating its commitment to digital inclusion and its conformance with principles of inclusive design and the related laws, mandates and guidelines.
“We are constantly adding new content and new subsites, which means accessibility is always going to be a moving target,” continues Daniel Jones. “To help ensure that we’re achieving our accessibility objectives, we’ve assigned and trained content managers in each department. By educating our people on the best practices for publishing web content, we’re making accessibility a fundamental part of our working culture.”
AudioEye Visual Toolkit
Enlarges cursor display for ease of tracking; improves usability for low-vision users
Enhances focus and improves reading comprehension by creating a horizontal line controlled by the cursor position
Enhances focus and improves reading comprehension by blurring out the majority of the page view as controlled by the cursor position
Improves readability for users with color blindness
Draws a colorful box around buttons and links, making them easier to find and select for visual keyboard users
Links & Buttons
Gives a bright highlight over either headings, links, or the entire text for visual keyboard users
Enlarges web copy for improved readability and usability for low- vision users
Changes the distance between words and lines of text
Change the font of the text on the page in order to make reading easier, option includes a font intended to assist individuals with dyslexia
Eliminates potential hazards, like moving, flashing animations that may trigger epileptic seizures
Shows the alt text that describes any button or image on the site when hovered over
Resets screen to original appearance, deselecting all tools
Exceeding regulatory requirements
With the CivicPlus web platform and AudioEye accessibility solution, the City of Portsmouth is realizing its goal of delivering responsive, high-quality digital services to citizens of all abilities.“The regulatory requirements and best practices around accessibility are continually evolving, and it simply wouldn’t be feasible for us to keep up with those changes on our own without assigning an entire team to work on it full time,” explains Daniel Jones.
“Thanks to AudioEye Managed, we have the peace of mind that our digital properties are accessible to everyone in the community, and to a standard that goes far beyond the minimum requirements of Title II and Section 508. In turn, we’re reclaiming valuable time that we can devote to developing innovative services for citizens.”
Enhancing service quality for every citizen
The AudioEye solution is now helping citizens of all abilities to access vital City services online and on mobile.“
One of the most important use cases for our digital services is communication,” continues Daniel Jones. “Whether it’s informing people about date changes to city council meetings or sharing the program for entertainment events such as the ‘sunset Thursdays’ summer concerts, our digital properties are by far the fastest and most effective way to get our message out. Our AudioEye solution plays a crucial role in closing the gap between citizens and government, and we now deploy it as standard whenever we’re building a new website or mini-site.”
The City of Portsmouth is one of the first cities in Eastern Virginia to offer a full accessibility platform to its citizens, and city predicts that its trailblazing example will inspire others to follow in its footsteps.
“Technology is moving faster than ever, and we’re now looking ahead at the potential impact of mobile, AI and voice on our approach to accessibility to ensure that we’re ahead of the curve,” concludes Daniel Jones. “We see that CivicPlus and AudioEye are leaders in their field, and we are 100 percent confident we’ve found a partnership that will support our digital accessibility requirements for the long term.”
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