San Francisco aims to improve accessibility through technology and data

A collaborative approach across San Francisco’s government is improving technology accessibility and use, helping to better serve residents with disabilities.

Government agencies are increasingly focusing on online accessibility through a variety of tools to make digital services more inclusive for all residents.

Deborah Kaplan, deputy director of program access for the San Francisco Mayor’s Office on Disabilities (MOD), explained that San Francisco is taking a collaborative stance with various agencies and jurisdictions working together.

For example, both MOD and the San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Services (DAS) complement each other in their work to better serve the city’s residents.

Kaplan said some of the primary ways the MOD serves this population is by collaborating with ADA coordinators across various departments to provide support and ensure consistency. This work includes serving in an advisory role to both departments and the Oversight Board regarding compliance and accessibility policies and best practices.

One topic the MOD advises other departments on is disability data. While cities use data in a variety of ways, including using air quality data to plan for climate change-related issues, gaps remain when it comes to data related to people with disabilities.

“There are different ways to help different regions of the city understand how they get their data, how they make sense of it, and what is available to them from the different data sources that the city gets,” Kaplan said. Stated.

Kaplan said another example of the city’s use of data is that the city is trying to collect better demographic data on employees with disabilities within its human resources department, and the MOD provides advice on things like which categories and terminology to use. said.

Another major initiative of the city is the DAS initiative, which will launch a new online resource directory dedicated to helping people with disabilities find and connect with relevant services.

According to Cindy Kaufman, DAS’ deputy director of community services, efforts to launch such tools began before COVID-19, when other pressing community needs were needed. was given priority. However, the pandemic has also heightened the need for a modern, up-to-date online resource directory, as opposed to the quickly outdated PDF versions that DAS previously provided.

“This is something that has been needed for a long time, that everyone agreed on, and it’s finally here,” Kaufman said, detailing that the creation of the directory is currently underway.

Kaufman said Unite Us will develop a directory, something the company has done before, but that the company is working to create a directory tailored to the specific needs of San Francisco communities. Stated.

Kaufman said the vision for the directory is to provide information not only about services provided by the government, but also about services provided by community-based organizations that are relevant to the people the sector serves. This platform will allow you to add resources and information as services change or become available.

The goal is to have this directory publicly available by the fall.

Once the platform is up and running, the data will give authorities insight into what resources people are choosing and whether there are gaps that need to be filled to continually improve resources. Masu.

Additionally, for those who do not have access to an internet-enabled device, DAS provides residents with an “always on” service through its Benefits and Resource Hub, a service center that serves as a one-stop shop for individuals to receive support in accessing services. forever,” Kaufman said.

“It’s been needed for a long time. I think this will be a really valuable resource for the community,” she said.

Kaplan noted that while San Francisco continues to monitor and study emerging technologies such as self-driving transportation, not all of them are available to everyone.

Several AV pilots regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission have begun operating in the city, and Kaplan said the vehicles may not be wheelchair accessible and have limited communication with visually impaired passengers. We explained that there may be safety concerns. Emergency.

Kaplan said the Mayor’s Office on Disabilities will continue to advise and advocate for improvements in areas where these innovations may be unsafe or inaccessible to people with disabilities in the community.

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