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PhD Defence Eric Velleman

THE IMPLEMENTATION OF WEB ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS BY DUTCH MUNICIPALITIES, FACTORS OF RESISTANCE AND SUPPORT

Eric Velleman is a PhD student in the Research Group Communication Science. His supervisor is prof.dr. J.A.G.M. van Dijk from the faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social sciences (BMS). 

There are laws and regulations in force, requiring public sector bodies to adopt and implement standards for web accessibility. Municipalities in the Netherlands have freely and collectively adopted these standards. However, like in other countries, they often seem unable to fully implement web accessibility standards even if the law requires them to and they are actively pursuing it.

Many studies looking into web accessibility implementation focus on compliance theory, based on a more normative approach of the problem (is the law applied, are the standards applied). This dissertation uses adoption and implementation theory and looks for an empirical approach observing the actual factors that play a role in the process of web accessibility implementation. The result is an exploratory 'web accessibility innovations initiation and implementation model' to identify organizational processes of resistance and support to web accessibility implementation. The model contains many of the innovation related elements identified in other models and frameworks but instead of being focused on the individuals within organizations, or extending such models to include organizational aspects, this model describes organizational processes, their indicators, indices and items that support or resist the initiation and implementation of innovations within e-government organizations.

The model is applied to web accessibility using a questionnaire and detailed manual web accessibility audits of the 69 participating municipalities. The results include the audit results and their correlation with the processes. It also provides a long list of web accessibility failures and describes 'low hanging fruit'. Eight implementation processes were identified.

Correlations with the audit results or with other processes in the model were found in

(1) Developing awareness and knowledge;

(2) Involvement of (top) management;

(3) Adaptation of the organizational structure;

(4) Monitoring and reporting and

(5) Applying information systems.

Because municipalities are not directly involved in the adaptation of the standards, (6) Adaptation of the innovation is not considered an indicator. For (7) adaptation of policies and standards there is a correlation with the size of the municipality and with (top) management involvement. For (8) deploying financial resources there is a correlation with the size of the municipality, but not with the audit results.

Respondents indicate the budget for web accessibility implementation is sufficient (62 percent). This may be caused by their belief that the website of their municipality is accessible for persons with disabilities. Finally, the size of the municipality correlated with internal web accessibility training of web professionals, with web accessibility included into job descriptions for new employees, with the appointment of a specific person to continuously monitor web accessibility and with the percentage of yearly website costs spent on web accessibility.