Humboldt County, CA Brings Compliance to Online Services with CivicPlus and AudioEye
According to Sean Quincey, Humboldt County Deputy County Administrative Officer, choosing to leverage CivicPlus’ partnership with AudioEye to enhance the County’s website and digital content was a crucial tactic in its commitment to accessibility.
“Accessibility has always been important to the county,” said Quincey, “But working with CivicPlus and AudioEye helped us to bring compliance to our online services in ways that would have been almost impossible without them. Their experience and expertise ensure that we don’t have blind spots and that we have the tools to incorporate accessibility throughout our website.”
Mike Tjoelker, Humboldt County IT Applications Analyst, cautions that non-compliant digital content that does not follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) can create disproportionate barriers to digital content for some citizens. Such hurdles can cause frustrations for citizens, and additional administrative burdens for municipal staff.
“When websites are riddled with accessibility barriers, they can be extremely frustrating to use, especially for people who use assistive technologies such as screen readers,” said Tjoelker. “If people cannot reach the county website content they’re looking for; they are potentially restricted from accessing important information and services. As a workaround, they may instead reach out to county staff in person or over the phone, which can take extra time and leads to a decrease in efficiency and resources: impacting both community members and county departments. Removing web accessibility barriers is vital for modern digital communication and improves the experience for everyone.”
Implementing AudioEye with CivicEngage®
When Humboldt County initiated its strategic project to enhance its digital accessibility compliance, it turned to its existing website solution partner, CivicPlus.
“IT has several goals, including striving to keep current with technology, ensuring reliable systems, and providing excellent customer service,” said Jim Storm, Humboldt County IT Division Director. “With CivicPlus and AudioEye, our website is optimized for efficiency, and we have a collocated geographically diverse data center and 24/7/365 support. We also wanted to be a leader among California counties in Web accessibility, and AudioEye clearly demonstrated that they provided unique solutions to help in this regard.”
Relative to the selection of an integrated solution partner—CivicEngage® and AudioEye—Tjoelker adds, “It is beneficial to have CivicPlus and AudioEye working so closely since they can come up with solutions together when developer issues or questions arise.”
Quincey agrees that there is value in choosing an integrated partner offering, adding, “A partnership like this depends on each other for success, so we know they are invested in getting it right when it comes to accessibility.”
According to Tjoelker, today, thanks to its use of AudioEye in conjunction with its CivicEngage website, Humboldt County’s staff has more flexibility and control over its ongoing accessibility compliance.
“Before working closely with CivicPlus and AudioEye, the County could only improve compliance on parts of the website that we had access to, which is limited,” said Tjoelker. “Through our partnership with CivicPlus and AudioEye, it has opened the doors for us to work together to find accessibility barriers site-wide and remediate them. The more people and resources that contribute to improving our website’s accessibility, the better.”
One of AudioEye’s features that Humboldt County elected to implement is its Ally Toolbar. It is a set of free assistive tools embedded in Ally websites. The tools help individuals that may not have access to assistive technology or who need accommodations, such as aging populations and individuals who have vision, hearing, motor, or intellectual (cognitive) disabilities, to entirely consume content. Click the person in blue on the bottom right corner of Humboldt County’s website to see the functionality offered by the enabled toolbar.
“The [Ally Toolbar] Reader allows for quite a few customization options that can assist our users and improve compliance,” said Tjoelker. “For example, high contrast mode can be helpful for people with color blindness or low vision; and specialized fonts can help improve the experience for people with dyslexia.”
By implementing AudioEye with CivicEngage, Humboldt County was able to lay a foundation for ongoing compliance. Tjoelker shares the following list of just some of the processes the County’s leaders have put in place to maintain a compliant website:
- With automated accessibility checks, manual testing, and user feedback— the County continues to work on removing newly found barriers and maintaining compliance.
- When a department would like to provide a new online service, the ADA Compliance division requests a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) from their vendor. The VPAT is used to record details about the accessibility of their application. Once submitted, the product and VPAT are then evaluated by the County’s Independent Web Accessibility Consultant to review the service for compliance before the County goes live with it.
- The County has regular communication with CivicPlus and AudioEye to check in about compliance and continue to make improvements.
- Keeping County web editors involved and educated also greatly contributes to a more compliant website. Regarding digital accessibility: they are provided with annual training, quarterly meetings/check-ins, and drop-in labs every other week. Automated accessibility reports are also sent out to web editors weekly so that they can monitor and remediate barriers that are found.
- Contact information and online forms are available on the website so that visitors can reach out about the site’s usability and accessibility at any time.
Tjoelker appreciates that AudioEye’s accessibility remediation tools are easy to use for both staff and citizens.
“AudioEye’s tools are fairly straight-forward to use and seem to require little or no training,” said Tjoelker. “Using the Ally Toolbar’s Page Elements Menu has especially helped us internally since we can view lists of content, such as headings and links. This allows us to more easily visualize and improve our structure, making the site easier for everyone to use, especially people who rely on screen readers.”
Two members of Humboldt County’s web editing team shared the following additional feedback about the AudioEye solution and its ease-of-use:
- “I like it, mostly because I know it provides an extra level of service for folks and protection for the County.”
- “I like the screen reader function of AudioEye and find it does a good job of reading content.”
The County’s web editors are not the only ones positively impacted by the County’s use of the AudioEye solution.
“Citizens seem pleased by our response time when they reach out about accessibility barriers or information they are unable to find on the website,” said Tjoelker. “It has been a team effort—between our community, county employees, and web-related vendors—to create a more accessible website.”
To determine if your website complies with the latest ADA requirements, obtain a free, third-party accessibility scan.