Website accessibility continues to be highlighted across all sectors as being inadequate. This was highlighted by the recent successful case brought against Dominoes by blind man, Guillermo Robles. Businesses can and must do better to ensure they provide an inclusive digital experience for all their customers.
Today we’re connecting with Gal Vizel, the CMO and co-founder of accessiBe. A world-leading solution that adopts AI to help make websites accessible with affordable solutions.
Why did you get into the field of website accessibility and start your accessiBe solution?
We identified a few problems that needed to be solved in order to make the internet truly accessible to everyone. In today’s internet-driven world, almost 20% of the population faces some sort of disability that doesn’t allow them to use the internet effectively. Meanwhile, business owners are getting served with web accessibility lawsuits – sometimes even more than once – for not ensuring that their websites are accessible and compliant with the regulations.
In our research, we found a clear market failure in the web accessibility ecosystem. All web accessibility solutions currently available for small and medium businesses are complicated and unaffordable. They usually involve manual accessibility remediation, which is not only costly but take months to deploy. A small business simply cannot afford to pay the $5,000 to $50,000 needed to make its website accessible.
We understood Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the only truly viable option for the internet to become fully accessible. An AI-based solution allows the process of making websites compliant to be simple, automatic, and affordable to businesses of all sizes. By using AI, we are able to cut almost 90% of the remediation costs used by other services.
What features do you feel lack in accessibility within websites?
In our research, we found a lack of compatibility to screen readers, or any other assistive software, which leaves a big percentage of users behind. One of the ways to ensure screen readers’ compatibility – that websites tend to neglect – is incorporating descriptive alt attributes in all images or visual content. This helps users understand all the visual information conveyed in the images.
One of the second big issues we see is the lack of accessible keyboard navigation. Being able to navigate and operate all of a website’s functions without the use of a mouse is essential for many users with disabilities, like the motor-impaired. This is reflected in the absence of a good focus indicator that not only allows users to know where they are as they move along the page, but also interact freely with the different elements on the website.
Anyway, these are only a few features we see lacking in accessibility within websites. There are still a lot of accessibility issues to address, like all the UI features in charge of making the content readable, such as font size, letter spacing, and the contrast ratio. It’s worth mentioning that animations and flashes are also elements that might trigger seizures or cause physical reactions in users who suffer from epilepsy.
With feedback from users with a disability, what features do they feel help the most with accessibility issues?
The feedback from users with different disabilities is very important to us.
After 18 months of R&D, working side by side with people with different disabilities, as well as cooperating with a brilliant blind developer from the JAWS team, we’ve incorporated that feedback into what is our solution for accessibility issues within websites. We have built in features characterized by their ease of use and practicality for users with disabilities.
An Accessibility interface is a key feature that helps visually-impaired users and people with epilepsy to personalize most of the user interface. It also addresses all the design features such as sizing, colors, and spacing, and includes activating a virtual keyboard and stopping any animation on the website. For elderly users and people with cognitive disabilities, there is a feature of an online dictionary included in the interface that allows them to search for word definitions, abbreviations, and acronyms whenever they don’t understand a term.
As we mentioned, another feature that is really helpful to motor-impaired users is the activation of the keyboard navigation by pressing the Tab key whenever they need it. In this way, users are prompted with a button to turn on the keyboard navigation adjustments whenever they want.
Screen reader compatibility is probablyone of the most helpful features in the accessibility ecosystem. Once a user enters a website using a screen reader, they will first receive a message to press ALT+1. This turns on the screen reader adjustments feature and allows them to navigate freely on the website.
Last but not least, we have developed our own quick navigation menu. This feature enhances the user experience by letting users reach certain sections of the page in a fast and easy way without having to locate it in the menu.
How do you find business are with wanting to provide a more accessible website for their customers?
Besides avoiding lawsuits and having to pay thousands of dollars in legal expenses, businesses have slowly begun to embrace web accessibility as one of their fundamental principles in digital marketing and social responsibility.
Accessible organizations rank better on Google due to many reasons. First, many SEO requirements overlap with accessibility requirements. Second, accessible websites have a lower bounce rate. On top of that, people with disabilities make up 20% of the population; this is a huge buying force who currently aren’t able to shop online easily. And if that is not enough, accessible organizations are also perceived better in today’s world, because social and corporate responsibility are important concepts that consumers value.
Do you have any advice for providing an accessible website?
Making an accessible website is all about stepping into the shoes of the user and understanding their needs.Today in order to make your website accessible you have to be aligned with the current international standards, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – WCAG 2.1 (Level AA), created by the World Wide Web Consortium and required in most legislations around the world.
We as a company are devoted to build the most simple and affordable solution for websites.
But that aside, we believe businesses have a social responsibility and most importantly, the power to connect users to the modern world by making their websites accessible to all. I’d actually like to use this space to approach them directly and say that in order to achieve this, business owners have to be mindful and take one step towards digital accessibility. The solution is easier than you think, it’s only one click away.
If you want to provide a truly inclusive experience then make sure your website is meeting the latest WCAG standards. As Dominoes and others have discovered, overlooking this can have serious repercussions!
Thanks to Gal for sharing your insights and the accessiBe team for their innovative solution to help make the internet a more accessible place for all to enjoy.