Leveraging AI to Help People with Disabilities Use the Web: accessiBe
Despite the developments in connectivity, such as faster and cheaper internet and affordable devices, people with disabilities still struggle to enjoy the web. Websites have poor accessibility, and web content isn’t readily consumable through assistive devices. Less than 10 percent of sites comply with accessibility guidelines, meaning that a vast majority of websites may be inaccessible to around one billion people who live with some form of disability.
To address this, laws such as the Americans Disabilities Act (ADA) compel businesses to make their services available to everyone. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has also established a set of accessibility standards called the Web Content Guidelines (WCAG) that help site owners ensure that their websites are compatible with assistive devices.
However, configuring websites and web content to be accessible isn’t a straightforward process. Compliance with the WCAG can be technically demanding even to seasoned web designers and developers.
Fortunately, web accessibility platforms such as accessiBe leverage artificial intelligence to enable site owners to instantly address accessibility issues.
Accessibility is a challenge
Despite the efforts of groups to encourage compliance, site owners still struggle to make their websites accessible. The WCAG covers a wide range of factors that developers have to dive deep into a site’s code and content to ensure full compliance.
To illustrate, in a study of more than 10 million web pages, accessiBe found that 98 percent of websites failed to fully pass even fundamental issues such as the navigability of menus.
Site owners face several challenges to full compliance.
Technical barriers. Programmers must modify their codebases to apply accessibility standards to their sites. They must add functionalities such as visual customization, alternative navigation, and built-in dictionaries. Content must be properly parsed and tagged so that screen readers are able to process them accurately. Quality assurance testing must also be done to guarantee that the site runs well after the modifications.
High costs. The technical efforts to fix accessibility issues typically demand time and financial resources. Each element in every page of the site must be screened to check if it’s compliant. For larger and popular websites, this may also involve going over hundreds or thousands of web pages and media files. Remediation efforts may require significant manpower if performed manually.
Inadequate solutions. Some sites attempt to improve accessibility using plugins. Plugins are a cheap way to introduce certain features that improve accessibility. For instance, some plugins simply allow users to tweak colors and enlarge fonts. However, there are many other forms of disabilities that these simple plugins simply don’t provide for. There are also many free testing tools that site owners can use to review their sites. Unfortunately, these often fail to detect the wider range of accessibility issues that a website may have.
How AI can help?
To address these concerns, accessiBe has turned toward artificial intelligence (AI) to make compliance easy for site owners. The technology can automate processes to (comprehensively review websites and web content and apply the necessary changes to improve accessibility. accessiBe can automatically scan all the pages and content of a website and apply all the necessary changes to achieve WCAG compliance.
accessiBe allows websites to offer the following features:
Adjustments for visual components. accessiBe allows people with color blindness, cataracts, and other visual impairments to adjust visual components such as font size, type, and spacing to perceive and read content better.
Animation control. Blinking lights and animations can trigger seizures for people with epilepsy. accessiBe enables users to disable various types of animation such as GIFs and videos so that they can browse the web without complications.
Optimized for screen readers. accessiBe uses AI to process visual content such as pictures and images. It then provides accurate alt texts that enable screen readers to describe images to the visually impaired.
Keyboard navigation. People with motor impairments can struggle in using a mouse to navigate websites. accessiBe ensures that websites are fully navigable using the TAB key or its equivalent in assistive devices.
Built-in dictionary. The elderly or people with cognitive impairments can find it challenging to understand sophisticated language, jargon, and slang. accessiBe enables a built-in dictionary that provides full definitions and descriptions to help users understand the content without having to leave the site.
Toward wider inclusion
The emergence of accessibility platforms like accessiBe comes as a boon for both site owners and persons with disabilities. By leveraging AI, the platforms can break down the technical barriers that site owners face and reduce the time and resources they need to make their websites accessible. As a result, people with disabilities can have equal web access and enjoy the full benefits of using the internet.
With capable tools at their disposal, site owners have little to no excuse to have inaccessible websites. They must do their part to cater to the underserved and work toward a more inclusive web.