Intro to Data Accessibility: Resources for the Public Sector

The recent push for open data and data transparency has pushed the public sector to address issues of equity and accessibility. From the Federal level (Section 508 standards) to the local level (for example, NYC’s Open Data Law), accommodating people with visual disabilities as well as those without technical training or data analysis skills has become more of a priority.

We as public sector analysts have both a moral and legal obligation to make our public-facing data as accessible as possible.  Some of us are already aware of the standards for data accessibility since the Section 508 standards have been out for a while; others are just getting started “remediating” their reports or trying to figure out how to create new, accessible versions.  Here is a quick introduction to resources I’ve been using to navigate the often confusing standards:

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

A great primer for all Microsoft Office files, Adobe PDFs, and HTML (for those of us who post tables within web pages)

      2. For Microsoft Office and Adobe PDFs, you can also go straight to the source:

Microsoft Excel 


3. NYC Open Data Resources

This document specifically outlines what is a public data set and the general outlines of best practices

An important note for spreadsheets here: every report should have a “data dictionary” page that’s understandable to the average person.  NYC Open Data version

4. The standards that are driving most accessibility efforts are the WCAG 2.0

Most of these standards have to do with web programming, but there are some essentials in here for those that use web-based tables and visualizations.

More to come…

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