Massachusetts rolls out digital accessibility initiatives


  • Digital Equity and Governance Board
  • Chief Information Technology Accessibility Officer


  • Massachusetts

Driving the news – Massachusetts sets high bar for other states:

Massachusetts has made significant strides in enhancing digital accessibility over the past few years, through governmental mandates and leadership by key institutions. The state’s big moves have been the creation of the country’s first Digital Accessibility and Equity Governance Board in 2023, and appointment of its first-ever state Chief Information Technology Accessibility Officer.

Recent governmental actions and plans:

In 2021, the state announced it would use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG), level A and AA as the standard for all desktop applications, multimedia content, and electronic documents – as part of its Enterprise Information Technology Accessibility Policy.

In 2023, under Executive Order No. 614 announced by Governor Maura Healey during Disability Pride Month, the state established several measures to advance digital accessibility:

  • In 2023, Massachusetts established the state Digital Accessibility and Equity Governance Board with the mandate to strengthen and advance digital accessibility and equity within the Commonwealth.
  • In early 2024, Massachusetts appointed its first-ever Chief Information Technology Accessibility Officer (CIAO), becoming the fourth state to adopt such a position. The CIAO’s role focuses on making state websites accessible and addressing service inconsistencies to improve user experience as state activities increasingly move online.
  • The executive order also directs each executive office to designate accessibility officers for each executive office.

This strategy includes updating the Enterprise Information Technology Accessibility Policy and forming a department dedicated to enhancing the efforts of the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS). Plans are also in place to launch a public-facing dashboard to improve transparency. Thanks to the Healey-Driscoll Administration, January is designated as Braille Literacy Month in Massachusetts to promote understanding of the key role Braille plays in raising literacy for those with vision impairments.

This was done to raise awareness of the importance of Braille to those who are blind or have low vision in accessing literature.

To complement these governmental efforts, Senator Ed Markey reintroduced legislation aimed at updating accessibility regulations in response to technological advancements. 

Other impactful initiatives:

Massachusetts has significantly advanced accessibility for visually impaired people, supported by collaborative efforts between state initiatives, local governments, academia, and the business community.

  • Local libraries:

    Numerous public and academic libraries across the state serve as designated access centers, offering assistive technologies such as screen readers, assistive listening systems, mobility devices, and speech recognition software. For example, the Worcester Talking Book Library gives patrons access to more than 1.2 million volumes of material. These institutions also adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure that digital resources like e-books and catalogs are user-friendly and accessible to people with visual impairments.

  • Voting accessibility

    : The Perkins School for the Blind partnered with a local election technology company in 2022 to improve voting accessibility for visually impaired voters.

  • Accessibility hackathon:

    Perkins also recently collaborated with MIT to host an accessibility hackathon, further fostering innovations in assistive technologies.

  • MIT Solve Initiatives:

    This program has produced technologies like Kibo and Vinsighte, which include AI-powered tools that convert text to audio and apps designed to assist with reading and environmental navigation, supporting both educational and daily activities for those with visual impairments.

  • Astronomical innovation:

    In March 2024, astronomers from Harvard and the Smithsonian developed a device that allows those with vision loss to “hear” celestial events like eclipses, enhancing their experience of such phenomena.

Looking forward:

We anticipate numerous initiatives and partnerships spanning the public, private, and non-profit sectors in the upcoming year, showcasing Massachusetts’ commitment to ensuring digital services are accessible to all. These joint efforts will bolster inclusivity and accessibility for individuals with visual impairments in both digital and physical realms across the state.

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