recommended reading

Disability rules complicate federal websites’ smartphone and tablet displays


With smartphone and tablet users making up a growing percentage of Internet traffic, many private sector websites have adopted responsive Web design, which can determine the type of device a visitor is using and then tailor its display accordingly.

A visitor on a smartphone might see fewer menu options, for instance, to better fit the phone’s tiny screen.

It’s been difficult for federal websites to follow suit, though, because most of the open source platforms for responsive Web design don’t meet the government’s rigorous requirements to ensure federal services are handicapped accessible, known as Section 508 guidelines.

The main problem is “screen readers”, which translate Web content into audio or Braille for the blind, can be confused by the systems, said Ken Fang, president of the mobile contractor Mobomo, who spoke during a General Services Administration webinar Wednesday on the government’s mobile strategy.

“It’s the bane of designers’ existence,” Fang said of the competing priorities of accessibility and responsiveness.

A handful of government websites have adopted responsive design while managing to remain 508-compliant, notably the Health and Human Services Department’s, which relaunched in a responsive form in June.

The federal Web design community is working to create an open source template for 508-compliant responsive design that agencies can easily adopt, Fang said.

Responsive designs free agencies from having to create separate mobile versions of a website. They also might help them stay ahead of the game as the Internet integrates into other platforms such as television and, perhaps, appliances with some Web-connected functions such as an air conditioning unit that reports its own energy use or a kitchen counter that displays recipes.

“Responsive design is the foundation of a mobile strategy,” Fang said. “Because when we talk about mobile first, we’re not just talking about phones anymore. It could be your refrigerator we’re talking about.”

The government’s mobile-first strategy aims to make the majority of federal services and information available in device-appropriate formats. It’s part of the federal digital strategy unveiled in May.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.