By Tai Lung
EPA’s environmental justice screening and mapping tool, EJSCREEN, consistently ranks as one of the most used tools on the agency’s website.
This week, EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) is announcing an enhancement that will make EJSCREEN even more useful. Based on requests and user
feedback, OEJ is rolling out a mobile device enhanced version of EJSCREEN. This new mobile version contains the same key functions and features as the full version of EJSCREEN, but in a more compact, easily accessible format. This includes the ability to select locations, access reports, and to map environmental, demographic and EJ indicators.
Maps can tell powerful stories and make complex information easy to understand. As computer mapping technologies advanced, EPA recognized an opportunity to develop a
screening and mapping tool that advanced our environmental justice goals. This is how EJSCREEN came to be: as a tool for EPA staff to look at environmental and demographic factors related to environmental justice as we develop programs and policies that impact low-income, minority, and other overburdened communities.
In 2017, OEJ conducted a survey on EJSCREEN, which found that more than 62% of respondents believe EJSCREEN could be improved by optimizing it for use on mobile devices. That same survey found that community users only made up 19% of EJSCREEN total users. This finding raised questions as to whether there was a correlation between the low numbers of community users and the lack of a mobile version.
EJSCREEN was originally built for use on standard desktop and laptop computers.
However, this format is not always accessible to many stakeholders working in environmental justice communities. As a result, the EJSCREEN platform may not be useable to some of the same communities it was designed to help.
Research has found that low-income households have lower rates of in-home internet connectivity. These households are more likely to depend exclusively on smartphones or other handheld devices to access the internet. This “digital divide” presents an opportunity for the EPA to bridge the technological gap as it relates to the use of EJSCREEN.
As a result, EPA made building a mobile version of this important tool a priority. Because of the smaller screen size of mobile devices, the mobile optimized version of EJSCREEN does not have all the functionality of the full tool. However, it does contain the key features of EJSCREEN, and users that want the full features/content have the option to switch to the full desktop version even on mobile devices.
As EPA continues to develop EJSCREEN, we are committed to making the tool more useful and accessible for everyone, and this mobile version is a big step in that direction. OEJ hopes that you will test the mobile version of EJSCREEN to see how it can serve your needs.You can also subscribe to the Environmental Justice ListServ to receive updates on our upcoming EJSCREEN activities and events.
We look forward to hearing from you – and in the meantime, we hope you enjoy the new mobile version of EJSCREEN!
About the Author: Tai Lung is the EJSCREEN Team Lead in EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice.