I created my first government website in 1995. In those days the Woody Allen quote was pretty much accurate: 80% of success was just showing up. Having a web site earned a city bragging rights, even if the site was nothing more than a home page with a few links.
As the decade progressed and web authoring tools became commonplace, most cities advanced to the point where they had at least a token web presence. While the sites were primitive when compared to commercial websites, local government saw the Internet as revolutionary. Suddenly there was this great tool that could be used to quickly disseminate all kinds of information to the community. Best of all, the medium was relatively cheap. There was incredible excitement about this new high tech, cost effective information delivery method.
Needless to say, accessibility was not a consideration in the early days of the web. As we discovered in our recent survey of municipal web accessibility, it’s not much of a consideration today, either, despite the pressing needs of each agency’s constituency. Of the 408 California cities we tested, 91% failed to achieve Section 508 compliance. The numbers were nearly as bad for the WCAG guidelines, with 89% of the sites failing to achieve WCAG’s Priority 1.