The DisabilityInfo.gov site is a model for others in the government to follow, not just for what it does but for how it does so.

Johanna Ambrosio, Tech Journalist

October 11, 2005

2 Min Read

'Regular' citizens and government IT workers alike might want to take a look at DisabilityInfo.gov. It likely augers the next wave of public-facing federal Web sites, not just for what it does but also for how it does so.

What it does is federate, so to speak, from across the government the latest and most relevant information that has anything to do with disabled people, their families, their employers, and so forth. Content experts from 16 different federal agencies contribute information about transportation, health, housing, taxes, and much else to this site.

The site is designed to be organized according to how disabled people live their lives, with top-line Web classifications that are meaningful to humans instead of being about how the federal government organizes itself. So sure, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is a big contributor to the site's section on transportation, but it's not the only contributor--and you might just find DOT info scattered throughout the site, says DisabilityInfo program director Kevin Connors.

In government parlance, the site was designed to be "citizen-centric."

The 'how' is even more interesting: the Department of Labor (DOL), under whose auspices the site was re-developed because of a Presidential mandate back in 2002, essentially outsourced all technical aspects to a firm that used open-source, agile programming techniques, and component-based software. The DOL also employs a marketing firm to get the word out about the site, which helps disabled people learn about the site and use it, which in turn helps convince the aforementioned content experts to want to make time to contribute to the site.

It's an interesting mixture of approaches traditionally considered both "public" and "private." And just in the nick of time; at least one expert says American e-government initiatives have been losing steam and Asian countries have taken the lead.

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About the Author(s)

Johanna Ambrosio

Tech Journalist

Johanna Ambrosio is an award-winning freelance writer specializing in business and technology. She has been a reporter and an editor in the computer industry for over 25 years, covering virtually every technology topic, starting with 'office automation' in the 1980s, as well as management issues including ROI and how to attract and retain talent. Her work has appeared online and in print, in publications including Application Development Trends, Government Computer News, Crain's New York Business, Investor's Business Daily, InformationWEEK, and the Metrowest Daily News. She formerly worked at Computerworld, for which she held various positions, including online director. She holds a B.S. in technical writing from Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, N.Y., now the Tandon School of Engineering of New York University. She lives with her husband in a Boston suburb. Johanna's samples of her work are at https://www.clippings.me/jambrosio.

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