Sites improve, but they're still short on accessibility

An analysis of more than 1,600 state Web sites found that Massachusetts, Texas and Indiana were rated the best among 50 states.

But the fourth annual survey of state sites by Brown University's Taubman Center for Public Policy also found that most portals miss the mark when it comes to accessibility.

The survey, released last month, also analyzed 60 federal Web sites.

Examiners discovered that most state sites are written at a level too high for the average American reader and most do not meet accessibility standards.

Using the Flesch-Kincaid test'a standard reading tool used by the Defense Department'researchers found 68 percent of state sites read at a 12th-grade level. National literacy statistics indicate that half of Americans read at an eighth-grade level.

The study also found that most state Web sites failed to meet disability accessibility standards. Thirty-three percent of the state sites meet the World Wide Web Consortium standard, and 24 percent meet Section 508 standards.

But service on state sites has improved. Researchers also found 21 percent of all sites provide three or more online services, up from seven percent the year before. States also are paying more attention to privacy and security concerns. Examiners found 54 percent of all sites reviewed had a visible privacy policy and 37 percent has a security policy in place.

Five habits of highly effective sites

Massachusetts scored 46.3 out of 100 and moved up from sixth place in 2002. Texas (43), Indiana (42.4), Tennessee (41.4) and California (41.1) rounded out the top five states. Last year, researchers awarded Tennessee the top prize. Sites received points in the ratings for features such as accessibility, readability, database access and fees.

Researchers recommended that state webmasters:
  • Strive for clear and simple language

  • Pay more attention to disability access

  • Verify claims of accessibility-standard compliance regularly

  • Issue easily accessible privacy statements

  • Design sites to include logical navigation, easy-to-find clusters of services and improved search functions.

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