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Revamped White House Website Aims For Inclusivity And Accessibility

Wednesday's inauguration ushered in new occupants of the White House, as well as a revamped White House website.

Shortly after President Biden and Vice President Harris took office, sharp-eyed Internet users noticed several major changes relating to the inclusivity and accessibility of the executive branch's official site. Among them are a new feature allowing users to include their pronouns when submitting contact forms and a relaunch of the Spanish-language website.

The White House contact form now includes gender-inclusive pronouns and prefixes, such as "they/them" and the gender-neutral title "Mx." The LGBTQ organization GLAAD amplified the news in a tweet and issued a statement praising the Biden administration for "taking immediate steps towards inclusion."

"Pronouns matter, and adding inclusive pronouns to a contact form is more than just a demonstration of allyship," said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "Research has shown that recognition and respect of our pronouns can make all the difference for our health and wellbeing — especially when it comes to LGBTQ youth."

GLAAD added that the move is a departure from the previous administration, which it said removed all mentions of the LGBTQ community from the White House website shortly after Donald Trump's inauguration.

The Biden White House is also differentiating itself from its predecessor in bringing back "La Casa Blanca." The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama maintained a Spanish-language website, but the Trump administration did not.

The Census Bureau reported in 2016 that Spanish was "by far" the largest non-English language spoken in the U.S., spoken by 13.3% of the population ages 5 and older.

Plus, the updated White House website allows users to enlarge the font and toggle back and forth to "dark mode" for an easier viewing experience.

A statement on the site says it is working toward conforming to an established set of accessibility guidelines in an effort to help make make website content accessible to all users, including those with sensory, cognitive and mobility disabilities.

"This commitment to accessibility for all begins with this site and our efforts to ensure all functionality and all content is accessible to all Americans," it reads.

And, as Reuters cybersecurity correspondent Raphael Satter reported, the White House is actively seeking out tech specialists to continue improving the site.

A message visible in the site's source code invites techies to join the U.S. Digital Service, a technology unit within the White House that was launched in 2014 with the stated mission to "deliver better government services to the American people through technology and design."

The invitation borrows a turn of phrase likely familiar to anyone who has followed news of the Biden campaign-turned-administration: "If you're reading this, we need your help building back better."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.
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