By Chad Swiatecki
The city has moved slowly in making its website as accessible and useful as possible for residents and falls short of federal principles to ensure usability for people of all abilities, according to a recent report from the Office of the City Auditor.
At Wednesday’s meeting of City Council’s Audit and Finance Committee, staff presented a follow-up report on a pair of audits conducted in 2013 and 2017 that found the city needed to develop a comprehensive planning process, assign responsibilities related to the website, and increase the services offered while also improving accessibility across the site.
One of the two recommendations issued in 2013 was completed with another still underway, while two of the four recommendations in the 2017 audit were completed, leaving the service offerings and accessibility items still a work in progress.
A recent test of AustinTexas.gov found that its performance in three categories – the ability to quickly find key information, easy navigation and the intuitiveness of its setup – had declined compared to a similar test in 2017. The site did improve in its usability for information tools and devices used by those with disabilities.
The update read, in part: “When we retested the city’s website, we found that all online services retested can be done online compared to 75 percent in 2017. We also found that some of the online services still are not easy to find or use. While the city’s website still comes up short in meeting the requirements of three of four principles including perceivable, operable and understandable, some improvements have been made to make it usable with current and future tools or devices to assist people with all abilities.”
Staff told committee members that work is ongoing to make the site more accessible, with a request for proposals underway to select a vendor that will handle translation duties to make the site available to non-English speakers.
Chris Stewart, the city’s chief information officer, said there have been two recent upgrades behind the scenes to improve the security of the site, with search engine optimization ongoing to help make its contents more readily available to community members searching for information.
Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter pressed Stewart for timelines for improvements, to which he replied that the site is a continual work in progress, with work underway to add more services for residents to access online.
“We do hear from constituents and community members pretty frequently expressing their frustration that the city website is difficult to navigate and it’s difficult to access information,” Alter said, later referencing an abandoned pilot program to create a site specifically aimed at resident needs and service offerings.
“There’s some history to this process that wasn’t really covered in the discussion for the audit. We were doing a much deeper dive on the whole alternative website and we chose not to move forward with that and what I want to understand better is what is the approach we’re using at a more macro level to get to the same end.”
Stewart said pairing the city’s communications staff with the office of technology management has helped to improve progress on the site, and that the decision to offer everything on the same site instead of splitting between two has allowed for some optimization of resources.
“We had a pilot site that was citizen- and resident-focused, and we had to make a decision and say that AustinTexas.gov was our website and that’s where we want to put all of our attention. A lot has happened in the past year that has not happened in past years before. Scores are going up and I could be happier with the satisfaction of our website and the accessibility in particular.”
- San Marcos favorite Industry Burger opens "mid-October" on E. 5th, featuring "low key healthy" Texas fare.
- Still Austin Whiskey Co. introduces "The Artist," its new rye whiskey.
- Domain NORTHSIDE favorites Bakery Lorraine, Grimaldi's Pizzeria, Jeni's Ice Cream and Sprinkles released their fall flavors.
- Cinnaholic at The Arboretum opens Friday, October 14, serving "create your own" cinnamon rolls and other sweet treats.
- San Francisco's Marufuku Ramen opens next Wednesday, October 12, in the Mueller District.
- Carpenter Hotel announces its popup food truck, Lil Carpenter, open Fri-Sun both ACL weekends, serving what you want, early to late, coffee to donuts, to dogs/burgers/fries/beer.
With major entertainment events slated for October, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is gearing up for a busy month.
Artists and music lovers are set to pack into Zilker Park for The Austin City Limits Music Festival in the coming two weekends. Following that, Formula One will bring racing fans to the Circuit of the Americas.
For those two events, the airport is anticipating high passenger days with 30,000 or more people departing flights.
ABIA recommends arriving at least two and a half hours in advance for domestic flights on those days. For ACL, it's expected on both Sundays of the festival along with the Monday and Tuesday after. The F1-driven high passenger days are expected on Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 23-26.
\u201c#AustinCityLimits visitors, you\u2019re in for a weird and wild ride \ud83e\udd18\u262e\ufe0f \n\nFlying in or out of our airport? We got firm and fun tips for you: https://t.co/RawVRalOXN\u201d— Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) (@Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)) 1664894083
F1, especially, could draw in loads of travelers as the three-day event saw 400,000 attendees last year. ABIA warns that highways leading to the airport may see even higher traffic than usual around the event and that travelers should plan their route accordingly.
Bailey Grimmett, a spokesperson for ABIA, said travel numbers come in 24 hours in advance. So, it's hard to predict if the airport will see travel volumes at the same levels that have happened around previous F1 races or if it'll top ACL's flight traffic.
Still, she says historical knowledge points to a chance for it.
“We've had that Monday after F1 break the record for single busiest in airport history," Grimmett said. "So context clues I would say yes, but I can't confirm that. But the historical background points to that."
In anticipation of the high volume of flyers, the airport received additional TSA officers for security screening through the end of October. To prepare even further, the Department of Aviation and partners hosted a job showcase and hiring fair to address the continued labor shortage the airport has experienced.
Relief from hectic travel days is on the horizon with November likely to see a slowdown.
"I don't anticipate it will be as busy as October just because we don't have as many events going on," Grimmett said. "Thanksgiving is kind of our primary holiday that we see a lot of passengers coming in and out of the airport."