DOR’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), Jon Kirkham was awarded one of the two CIO of the Year honors last Thursday at the 2020 Public Sector CIO Academy Awards in Sacramento.
“Websites are one of the most-used ways we share information with citizens, so website accessibility is really important for ensuring inclusivity and a California for all,” said Jon Kirkham. Under Jon’s leadership, DOR collaborated with other state departments resulting in more Californians with disabilities given access to critical digital services and information. As CIO, Kirkham led the modernization of DOR’s technology environment and has improved IT’s ability to deliver program outcomes. Still, his most notable achievements are in his leadership as a voice for disabled Californians and for being a consummate team player. He not only recognizes the collaborative efforts with other state agencies but also his DOR teammates who have helped contribute to the success of this effort.
Before Kirkham, Californians with disabilities did not have a voice in the state’s technology community, and the state struggled to find an accessibility leader. He continues to raise awareness of accessibility issues, develop strategies to remediate inaccessible content and technology systems, and provide proactive leadership on accessibility years before 2017’s Assembly Bill 434 (AB 434). Assembly Bill 434 was a watershed event for California state government, requiring state websites to maintain full accessibility compliance and requiring California state directors and CIOs to self-certify that their sites comply.
Kirkham’s accessibility guidance pre-dates AB 434 and includes the following:
- Providing subject matter expertise to California Department of Technology (CDT) for the California IT Accessibility Resource Guide
- Establishing interagency agreements for DOR to consult with departments on accessibility
- Coaching and mentoring participants on accessibility
- Educating other state departments about the need for accessibility and ways to achieve it
He and his DOR staff are the state’s go-to accessibility source, guiding the Governor’s Office, all state Agencies, CDT, and more than 50 departments in the AB 434 compliance including:
- Leading remediation efforts like the implementation of optical character recognition (OCR) bot to automatically render inaccessible basic text usable
- Working with vendors to bring OCR Text into properly formatted documents, to create a more usable document for the blind
- Creating and maintaining a 400-member Web Accessibility Community of Practice where state departments collaborate to share strategies, fixes, and approaches to improve access
- Growing the list of vendors able to help with accessibility needs
- Helping more than 50 departments with plans to accomplish certification, and consulting with departments that have complex remediation needs
The state has made great strides to ensure that people with disabilities can access digital content, thanks to Jon and his colleagues. Having this access, which advances participation in society, ensures that nobody is marginalized, and allows everyone to participate and benefit from e-commerce and employment opportunities creating a California for all.