Nearly 20 years ago, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched Ready.gov, a national public service advertising campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies such as natural and technological disasters. To date, little is known about the accessibility and adaptability of this information for vulnerable populations including persons with disabilities (PwDs) and those with limited English proficiency (LEP). This computer-automated analysis seeks (1) to determine the general web, mobile and language accessibility of state websites which extend and/or amplify the Ready.gov national campaign goals, (2) to evaluate the document accessibility of downloadable emergency preparedness information, and, based on findings, (3) reflect upon improvement opportunities for disaster and emergency management preparedness messaging processes to vulnerable populations. An exploratory, quantitative content analysis relying on computer-automated software is used to assess the web, language, mobile and document accessibility of Ready.gov state-affiliated websites dedicated to providing public information for emergency preparedness and disaster response. Additional factors such as the use of CAPTCHA, adherence to the Matterhorn Protocol, disclosure of accessibility policy statements, and the presence of tailored information are evaluated. No significant differences among FEMA regions were found. The most frequent errors were likely to impact the POUR dimensions of perceivability and operability. In all, 76% of the Ready.gov state-affiliated websites had WCAG Level AA detectable accessibility failures on the home pages. Furthermore, 62% of the sites offered translational language formats for LEP users, while only 6% (n=3" role="presentation" style="box-sizing: border-box; display: inline; line-height: normal; word-spacing: normal; overflow-wrap: normal; text-wrap: nowrap; float: none; direction: ltr; max-width: none; max-height: none; min-width: 0px; min-height: 0px; border: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px; position: relative;">n=3�=3) explicitly provided PwDs an option to report accessibility-related user experiences to the agency. Document accessibility was deemed to be poor with 80% of the websites disseminating downloadable .pdfs such as emergency planning guides and preparedness kits in inaccessible digital formats. These findings identify opportunities for improvement specifically, in the web, mobile and document accessibility of information associated with the Ready.gov national campaign. We argue that improvement and compliance is expected to reduce the likelihood of litigation, increase the resilience of vulnerable populations, and improve user experiences.
Mason, A.M. & Bhati, S. (2023) Ready.gov: Who’s Ready, Really? Examining Principles of Inclusivity and Universal Design in Emergency Management and Disaster Preparedness Public Information Websites Journal of Emergency Management and Disaster Communications, 1-21. eISSN 2689-9809