PARSIPANNY, N.J. – Noting that most government websites and those of elected officials do not have features in place that make the experience more friendly for users with disabilities, Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce announced the relaunch of her own website during a Wednesday morning Zoom meeting with officials and advocates.
“People are unaware that visually impaired individuals need to adjust the contrast lighting or size of wording on the internet,” DeCroce (R-Morris) told participants. “People are also unaware that individuals with physical difficulties, unable to use a touchpad or a mouse, are often left to click through every level of a website, sometimes 50 to 100 clicks, to receive information from one location.”
Her new website allows people with varied abilities to view and navigate more easily while using screen readers and other assistive technology devices.
She noted that while New Jersey has made advances making some government websites more accessible, sites for many other agencies, officials and local governments remain difficult.
“Most elected leaders are trying to help guide people through the complex requirements of the pandemic shutdown by posting alerts to their websites,” said DeCroce. “But for people with disabilities, navigating the webpages can be almost impossible unless the sites include the proper technology to interface with screen readers and other assistive devices. The update on my site made it far more friendly to people with disabilities.”
The Zoom meeting also was joined by Mike Marotta of Disability Rights New Jersey.
“As the world becomes more digital, we must ensure people with disabilities are provided equal access to electronic information in order to be fully included members of our community,” Marotta said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24.6 percent of adults in New Jersey have some type of disability.
The Kessler Foundation, a New Jersey-based nonprofit for people with disabilities, said the disability community was disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. From March to April of this year, the number of employed people with disabilities decreased by nearly one million.
DeCroce used the Zoom meeting to urge her legislative colleagues to enact accessibility upgrades on their own websites.
“As an assemblywoman, I’m somewhat embarrassed that we don’t have those capabilities statewide,” said Aura Dunn, R-Morris, who joined DeCroce’s video conference. “I want to follow in your footsteps and see what more we can do on this.”
People with disabilities make up 8 million of the small business owners throughout the nation and have had to overcome different state lockdown orders that are forcing many to go out of business.