The Speaker and Council are committed to making meaningful inclusion the standard by advancing the way we integrate technology, engaging the local media that diverse New Yorkers rely on, and expanding accommodations for people with special needs.
In 2016, we celebrated major milestones outlined in Council 2.0 – our technology roadmap for inclusion and open government. We placed interactive, accessible web design at the center of major processes and initiatives. This work included producing an interactive tool for exploring the City’s budget; creating a site and model to support the transparency of community planning; distilling complex zoning material to make it easier to understand; and implementing a responsive, multiplatform campaign for engaging diverse teens in the Young Women’s Initiative. In August, we held our 2nd Digital Inclusion Summit at Civic Hall, where we convened policymakers, community organizations, and technologists to discuss participatory civic processes. The Council also continued to expand the scope of our texting program, incorporating idea collection during the Fall 2016 portion of Participatory Budgeting.
Because 4.1 million New Yorkers turn to ethnic, neighborhood, youth and other community media, the Council is committed to making sure that these media have equal access to government information. To this end, the Speaker and Mayor announced in early 2016 the creation and availability of the City’s first directory of community media for communications staff at the Council and city agencies. We’ve continued to engage diverse media by hosting roundtables with local media, increasing cultural competency and advocating for proportional ad dollars and prioritizing translation of key information. The Speaker put in place a staff person who is dedicated to guiding and supporting this work as a standard at the Council.
Last spring, our Technology Committee held the Council’s first paperless hearing, in which Microsoft Surface tablets and QR codes were used for accessing documents. We moved a step forward in October, when we integrated these tablets into our Stated Meeting and into a Sanitation Committee hearing to test how this technology can help Members view or easily search documents, reduce the use of paper and the preparation time involved with copying and distribution, and modernize the way the Council conducts its business. Our paperless Stated Meeting saved more than 24,000 sheets of paper and laid the groundwork for exploring how we can modernize Council processes going forward.
The Council recognizes that people with disabilities may have difficulty accessing the Internet. While some software may alleviate this burden, the effectiveness of this assistive technology depends on whether a web site is properly designed. To facilitate better access, the Council passed legislation requiring the adoption of a standard for accessibility for city web sites.