2022 NASCIO State IT Recognition Award Winner
Winning Accessing Illinois:
Elevating Accessibility for Residents with Disabilities
Category: State CIO Office Special Recognition
2022 NASCIO Award Recipient
More than 30 years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act revolutionized how we thought about accessibility – making it a legal requirement for employers, governments, and public entities to ensure that people with disabilities could access buildings, communications, and services as effectively as anyone else. The following decades, however, saw a revolution in what it meant to be accessible, as the physical world became virtual, and information systems, websites, and apps began taking the place of government offices, worksites, and stores. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the point firmly home – access to the virtual world is a requirement for participation in modern life.
Unfortunately, the pandemic proved that our virtual world was not nearly as accessible as it needs to be. When the pandemic shifted many of us to remote work, video meetings, and online services, people with disabilities faced virtual barriers that were as real as unclimbable stairs, unopenable doors, and unreachable shelves. Fortunately, this crisis also brought opportunity – and the State of Illinois took advantage of this opportunity to dramatically improve the accessibility of its information technologies for residents and staff with disabilities.
Not long into the pandemic, two disability advocacy groups alerted the State of Illinois that some of its key information systems were not fully accessible to all Illinoisans with disabilities. Pointing to issues with the State's unemployment benefits system, new video conferencing platform, and several State websites, the advocates stressed the seriousness of ensuring that people with disabilities could continue to access State services. With the support of the Illinois Governor's Office and the leadership of the State CIO, the Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT) partnered with the advocacy groups to embark upon a two-year journey not only to address specific accessibility issues, but to reinvent the way the State of Illinois ensures its information technologies are accessible to all.
Over the last two years, DoIT – in partnership with the disability advocates, accessibility specialists, staff with disabilities, and private-sector partners – worked and succeeded at improving the accessibility of its key information systems and technologies. DoIT also explored and found ways to operationalize accessibility – by focusing on developing partnerships, efficiencies, automation, and governance – and culminated with the State CIO establishing a dedicated Office of Information Accessibility and Chief Information Accessibility Officer to continue this important work through the end of the pandemic and beyond.
2022 NASCIO State IT Recognition Award Finalists
Project Name: Security Scorecard: You're the CISO, Cybersecurity is Your Problem