The Relationship between Website Accessibility and Usability: An Examination of U.S County Government Online Portals


  • Yang Bai


Although providing accessible online services to people with disabilities is a legal requirement in the U.S for the federal government and highly recommended for other government agencies, severe accessibility issues persist on E‑government portals. One potential cause of this problem is that the government lacks strong incentives to adopt a higher accessibility standard because people with disabilities constitute a small proportion of E‑government users. By demonstrating that website accessibility is positively associated with usability, this study provides a potential solution to incentivize the government to adopt a higher accessibility standard. To test the relationship between accessibility and usability, 342 county government online portals were selected by a stratified sampling method. The conformance of the homepage of the websites to the WCAG 2.0 accessibility standard was evaluated using an automated tool. Then, an 18‑item heuristic checklist was assembled based on prior works and used to assess the usability of the websites. After controlling for the potential confounding factors such as broadband availability and county budget, the correlation between the usability and accessibility scores was tested. The analysis shows a significant positive relationship exists between the usability and accessibility scores. This positive relationship suggests that improving the accessibility could also enhance the usability of websites. As a result, the online experience of non‑disabled users could also be improved. The finding of the study implies that web accessibility could be approached and framed from a different perspective: it does not only benefits users with disabilities but also general users. This positive relationship could be leveraged to give the government more incentives to make E‑government portals more accessible to people with disabilities.



1 Apr 2019