Web accessibility and edemocracy: Empowering citizens with disabilities online
Accessibility is an issue for everyone to overcome. Government Institutions are responsible from providing services for everyone, therefore; for eGovernment portals or platforms, to keep the information & services accessible to all, is critical. As widely accepted, eGovernment model should be able to reach diverse citizen groups as governance actors, in order to improve the progress of eDemocracy initiatives. The real transformative process towards eDemocracy would be made by the regulations made according to the needs of all citizens. For eGovernment model, to ensure the networking & organisational abilities among people with disabilities, could be possible by people with disabilities making use of services. However, for the people with disabilities, Web accessibility has been a great obstacle as they are already facing problems of accessibility in transportation, architecture, education as well as in employment. Therefore, Web accessibility standards are significant in terms of equal opportunities; they should be an integral part of the overall development process and cannot be presented as a separate issue. Although there are millions of people have disabilities that affect their use of the Web; a review of current public service websites in Turkey signifies that public websites mostly do not recognize the needs of people with disabilities and do not adopt assistive technologies. Most public websites have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or even impossible for many people with disabilities to access the information over the Web. This is an essential fact that illustrates that eGovernment criteria are not yet fulfilled. This paper, by focusing on visually impaired and blind people; evaluates Turkish public websites' usability by people with disabilities and illustrates the outcomes from the ideal of eDemocracy angle. First, Information Society, eGovernment, eDemocracy concepts, disability and Web accessibility criteria and standards and implications for visually impaired users are introduced. Following, Turkey's eGovernment trajectory is presented and eGovernment Gateway of Turkey, as well as some public sector websites are reviewed.