Gov. Maura Healey signed an executive order Wednesday to create a chief information technology accessibility officer charged with making the commonwealth’s websites and digital tools more accessible.
The new position, which is set to be posted on the government’s website this week, will chair the state’s Digital Accessibility and Equity Governance Board to improve the equitable resources in government.
“The establishment of the Digital Accessibility and Equity Governance Board represents our commitment to supporting individuals with disabilities and making government more accessible and equitable for all,” Healey said in a statement.
The executive order was first recommended to Healey by Jason Snyder, the state’s Technology Services and Security secretary, who also will be working closely with the chief IT accessibility officer.
“This administration is committed to serving all people of Massachusetts and ensuring that everyone can meaningfully engage with state services using technology,” said Snyder. “The prior experience interacting with mass digital services resulted in different outcomes based on the application or website they’re visiting. We can do better, providing a consistent means of digital accessibility for all is an essential goal.”
For Snyder, digital accessibility is a personal concern of his. The technology secretary shared a story about his son’s first vision test when he was 5. At first, Snyder believed his son was doing well on the exam, which involved reading colored numbered dots that differed from a group of surrounding ones. But to his surprise, the physician told Snyder that his son might be color blind and was actually making up the numbers as he went along.
“Now I recognize that colorblindness is a minor disability, but there are websites, particularly with maps, and satisfiers, where he cannot see the different colors, and there’s a communication breakdown from what is intended,” Snyder said. “This is just one small example. We need to meet the requirements for each disability.”
Healey’s announcement comes on the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in various sectors.
“It is critical that people with disabilities have access to the information and resources they need,” John Oliveira, acting commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. “Governor Healey’s executive order takes much-needed action to increase the accessibility of websites across the commonwealth, reducing digital barriers and enhancing usability for all.”
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