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SHAPE THE FUTURE OF OPEN eGOVERNMENT


NEXT STEPS FOR OPEN EGOVERNMENT SERVICES RELATED TO DISABILITY.

OPEN EGOVERNMENT IN DISABILITY

Open Government is a government with high levels of transparency with an emphasis on government accountability, meaning that the public should have access to government-held information and be informed of government proceedings. It includes expectations for increased participation and collaboration of citizens, businesses, employees and other entities in government proceedings, through the use of modern, open technologies. eGovernment refers to the use of computers and other devices to provide information and services to the public. eGovernance extends the scope of eGovernment to include citizen engagement and participation in governance. Government 2.0 refers to government itself as an open platform that allows people inside and outside government to innovate and that evolves through interactions between the technology provider and its user community.

Eurostat reports that in the EU there are 44 million people aged between 15 and 64 in the category of people with disabilities. The European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 states that social and economic participation of people with disabilities is vital. Open Government for people with disabilities is related to the design of services that use shared and open government data that are inclusive by default and cater to the needs of people with disabilities.

This document focuses on open eGovernment services that are aimed for people with disabilities. This group is varied and ranges from people with physical disabilities e.g. visual or hearing loss or mobility impairment, to people with developmental disorders where many types of impairments are included like Intellectual Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), communication disorders, attention-deficit, among others.

Additionally, it is important to offer open eGovernment services for the families of people with disabilities and for the staff that belong to the different support organizations for this population sector.

People with disabilities have a serious risk of social exclusion due to difficulties in their diagnosis, social ignorance, and lack of resources that offer adequate support. One of the main issues is employment. Although there are laws in some Member Countries that establish that public and private companies should employ workers with disabilities, many companies do not comply with the law regarding the hiring of people with disabilities as there is very little knowledge on job profiles that are adequate for people with these impairments.

So far, accessibility options are often few and ill-locatable on government service web-portals. Several Member States have adopted measures based on internationally used guidelines, WCAG 2.0, for the design of accessible websites. However, those measures often relate to different versions or compliance levels of those guidelines. Having accessible Open eGovernment services would contribute to the support of people with disabilities and their integration into society.

Due to the differences among the compliance levels of accessibility guidelines, developers' competitiveness and growth are hampered by the additional costs they would incur in the development and marketing of cross-border web accessibility-related products and services. The approximation of measures at the national level to measures at the Union level should be based on agreed accessibility requirements for websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies. It would reduce uncertainty for developers and foster interoperability.

SOME AVAILABLE aND EMERGING SOLUTIONS

  • Specialized website with information on important care and social security provisions for people with disabilities, chronic illnesses and the elderly. These are catered to the requirements of people with disabilities, their families and support staff.

Example:

One-stop portal in the Netherlands provides information on important care and social security provisions for people with disabilities, chronic illnesses and the elderly.

Disability services in the different regions in Spain.

Gov.uk one-stop eGovernment portal in the UK presents a wealth of information about disability services in one place, e.g. legal documents, links to advisory services and many services are available to disabled citizens through their account.

  • Accesible eGovernment portals that follow standard recommendations for making Web content more accessible.

Example:

Zaragoza council eGovernment portal which complies with WCAG 2.0 norms. It is certified officially by the Spanish Agency for Normalization and Certification (AENOR).

Brazil portal for people with disabilities.

  • Portals for people with disabilities developed by third parties that follow standard recommendations for making Web content more accessible.

Example: Discapnet is a portal for people with disabilities in Spain that follows WCAG accessibility guidelines. In its design, the emphasis has been put on universal accessibility. Discapnet was built by the Foundation ONCE and an ICT company. While it is non-governmental, it has been developed in collaboration with government agencies. The portal publishes employment boards and employment policies that aim to support the insertion of people with disabilities in the job market.

  • Disability helpline for any claim relating to disability benefits.

Example: UK disability benefits helpline.

  • Mobile applications that support people with disabilities, especially in mobility issues.

Example: Mobile app for mobility in the Metro of Madrid for people with visual impairment.

SOME AVAILABLE AND EMERGING BUSINESS AND DATA MODELS

  • Co-creation of portals for people with disabilities: "government and people with disabilities, families and support staff initiate, design, or implement programs, projects, or activities together". This includes the design and development of accessible eGovernment services and the provision of co-creation spaces where people with disabilities, families and support staff can be involved in this process; especially important is having a validation stage with participation of people with disabilities.

  • Assistance to people with disabilities, their families and support staff for the access and use of open eGovernment services such as in person attention and call centres.

  • Personnel that provide support to eGovernment portals related to accessibility, in some tasks: online chats regarding questions and advice, management of forums, answer of emails, assistance in compliance to laws, directives, regulations, etc. on open government and eGovernment, community management of the portal.

  • Self-employment profiles and business models that cater to people with disabilities.

  • Reuse of eGovernment accessible services by companies and vice versa. For example, a biometric id service developed for a specific website could be reused for login by an eGovernment service.

GAPS: POLICY, TECHNOLOGY AND DATA

Policy

  • Despite the existence of numerous legislative imperatives and societal obligations to promote inclusion and full citizenship of people who have disabilities, these do not appear to have manifested in real attitudinal change or in action based work to promote access to ICT, including the Internet, for people with disabilities. Universal design is not apparent in the vast majority of eGovernment portals. and although legal penalties are aimed to promote compliance, implementation of such penalties is lacking.

  • The disability sector would benefit from a specific policy regarding the public training in technology skills for people with disabilities, their family and support staff. The fact that the lack of digital skills is more prominent in this group, makes ICT Education policies particularly relevant here.

Technology and Data

  • Low accessibility to most open eGovernment services in general:

    • Accessibility options are often few and difficult to locate on government service websites.

    • eGovernment websites are not compliant with accessibility norms so that text-to-speech tools become useless.

    • There are no alternative access mechanisms, such as biometric identification, for users with disabilities

  • Lack of one-stop-shop portals for disability-related services. For instance, financial services (e.g. benefits) are accessed through the national government portals, while care, transport and accessibility assistance is provided through local government web portals.

  • Low technology skills for staff that belongs to support institutions for people with disabilities.

  • Lack of mobile applications and responsive websites, especially important for people with disabilities that have mobility problems.

SOCIAL CONSIDERATIONS

  • Open eGovernment services should facilitate the services provided by organizations that give support to people with disabilities.

  • Open eGovernment services should be accessible by people with disabilities, so that they do not contribute to social inequality.

  • The changes in the labor force due to open eGovermnent services should not increase unemployment for people with disabilities.

  • Good open eGovernment services for disability can contribute to increase trust in:

    • eGovernment services, i.e. secure services.

    • Government itself, i.e. open government that is accountable and transparent.

  • Open eGovernment services for the disability sector can help to improve the quality of life for people in that sector in general.

RECOMMENDATIONS

a) Further development and use of eDemocracy tools

In general eDemocracy and eParticipation tools are not offered as services on eGovernment portals in the EU. eGovernment websites need to be transformed in order to support increasing engagement and participation of citizens and businesses, providing features such as web forums, discussion spaces and social media interaction. Specifically, there is a lack of technological solutions that aim to boost inclusivity and civic participation of people that have disabilities on foundational issues, such as work, training and education.

b) User-centered design

User-centered design is necessary for accessible eGovernment services, since customizable applications and personalised service provision is an imperative for people with disabilities.

Awareness of users with disabilities, families and support staff expectations when interacting with the public sector through eGovernment services, may facilitate the interaction between public administrations and users. These expectations are related to usability goals, user characteristics, tasks and workflow of the service. Articulating these expectations requires service designers not only to analyse and envision the way the service will be used by these users, but also to validate their assumptions. Emerging methodologies and tools for co-creation in general, and particularly for co-creation of services, give support to this action. Provision of co-creation spaces enables the use of these methodologies.

The uptake of user-centered design requires to train service staff in eService design, methodologies, and facilitation of user participation.

c) Service personalisation

There is a need for personalised service provision. In addition, due to the great complexity arising from combinations of conditions encountered from person to person, the need for customizable applications and personalised service provision is an imperative for persons with disabilities.

Personalisation tailors a service to segments of individual’s needs. It is based on the knowledge of the group of users’ profile and is used to improve user satisfaction. Personalisation may involve having a personal portal of customized eGovernment services according, for example, to type of disability.

d) Universal accessibility of services (eAccessibility)

Considerations for universal accessibility services are related to alternatives for audio content, such as transcripts and captions, or sign language; page structure and content, which need to be properly coded so that they can cater to text-to-speech synthesis or audio descriptions; and textual content that follows Easy-to-Read norms.

Accessibility options are often few and ill-locatable on government service web-portals. Public administrations should design digital public services that are inclusive by default and cater to the needs of people with disabilities.

e) Services in multiple languages

A great majority of eGovernment web portals in the EU are available only in the native language or in the native language and English; the English version often only provides information and not all of the eGovernment services that are provided in the native language. Services should not only cater to the needs of people with disabilities but also be deployed in multiple languages.

f) Ubiquitous services (computers, mobiles, tablets)

In general, only one third of public sector websites in the EU are mobile-friendly. Specifically, there is a lack of mobile apps for eGovernment services. People with disabilities that have issues with mobility, e.g. people with visual impairment, would greatly benefit from low cost smartphone and mobile solutions.

g) Meeting the once-only principle

The once-only principle states that a user should not have to supply the same information more than once to public administrations. National administrations should take-up the European Interoperability Framework (EIF). eIDAS services, including eID and eSignature are also necessary in order to meet the principle. In particular people with disabilities should be provided with biometric id systems that allow identification without the use of pin numbers.

The use of open source software, open standards and open API will result in more open and scalable ICT systems for public service delivery. This will pave the way for the integration of systems and the implementation of the once-only principle for people with disabilities.

h) Cross-border services

In services for people with disabilities, it is especially important to guarantee cross-border health services and to implement the electronic interchange of social security information and health information in general.

i) People’s access to their own data

Allowing people with disabilities, their families and support staff to “own”, use and amend their data, could go a long way to make them more invested in the services they use and more trusting of government. Additionally, it would cut down on information queries by governments and allow for faster resolution times.

j) Openness of data and services

Data and algorithms transparency is essential for digital trust of eGovernment services for people with disabilities, their families and support staff. Public administrators and other stakeholders have to be especially careful when dealing with data of people with disabilities, the use and processing of these data have to be clearly stated, consent has to be specifically asked for and data have to be anonymised when provided to others.

k) Cybersecurity

Public administrations should provide services for people with disabilities that ensure stakeholders that they are interacting with the intended counterpart. Data should be stored in such a way that only authorised entities can access them and they can be recovered after a security incident.

ARE THERE ANY OTHER IMPORTANT EMERGING SOLUTIONS, BUSINESS AND DATA MODELS, GAPS, AND NEXT STEPS THAT WE MISSED ON?