3 Ways AI Technology is Helping to Improve Web Accessibility

Artificial Intelligence is no longer something that is strictly reserved for movie screens and science fiction novels. In today’s world, AI and machine learning technologies are utilized in a vast array of applications across a multitude of industries, driving real change and helping businesses optimize their operations. As a result, the AI market is expected to contribute a staggering $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

One of the industries currently benefiting from AI’s rapid development is the web accessibility sector. In the past, web accessibility has been a large source of frustration for companies and website owners looking to improve the usability of their digital content. Most of the time, achieving full accessibility meant hiring specialized web developers who would manually remediate new and existing content line-by-line. Of course, this is an expense that most SMBs cannot afford.

Consequently, many business owners overlook the importance of web accessibility, which impacts a significant portion of their user base and exposes them to a high level of risk, namely in the form of accessibility lawsuits.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of ensuring that all digital content, whether it be blogs, videos, images, files, or audio, are free from barriers that prevent users with disabilities from navigating the site. Web content should be compatible with assistive technologies, such as screen readers, and sites should be fully navigable via keyboard. However, there is far more to accessibility than merely these two factors.

WCAG 2.1 is the universally acknowledged set of guidelines that provides advice on how website owners may create a fully accessible site. Perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust are the four main criteria for defining online accessibility in this comprehensive document. A company may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights statute forbidding discrimination based on disability if it is unable to comply with any of these standards.

The impact of AI on web accessibility

A study conducted in 2020 found that 98% of the world’s top one million websites reported accessibility failures, likely due to the complexity involved with maintaining compliance across all digital mediums. Fortunately, AI-based solutions are proving to be a game-changer when it comes to improving the accessibility of digital content, which is welcome news to business owners that have been struggling to gain compliance with the WCAG and ADA. On that note, let’s look at some primary use cases of AI in the web accessibility sector.

Automated scanners

Part of the problem with web accessibility is that most business owners are blissfully unaware that their site is not accessible. If you don’t know you have an issue, it’s not very likely that you are going to fix it. Thanks to advancements in AI, website owners can now use automated accessibility scanners, such as accessScan, to quickly learn whether their site is accessible and compliant with legislation.

AI-powered overlays

Rather than relying on web developers to manually remediate the code on your website to make it accessible, there are now a host of AI-powered solutions that automatically scan, diagnose, and rectify accessibility errors for you. All you need to do is install a plug-in, and the overlay will do the heavy lifting without changing your source code.

Automated captioning

Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) algorithms are helping users who are deaf and hard of hearing to interact with video content. Thanks to these solutions, content creators do not need to input captions manually themselves. Instead, ASR services will automatically input captions without the need for user input. Furthermore, ASR solutions can caption video content in real-time, making live streams available to those with disabilities.

Why is web accessibility so significant?

Web accessibility lawsuits are rising year on year, with 2021 breaking the record for the most digital accessibility lawsuits. Thus, operating with an inaccessible website means your business will be at an increased risk of being on the receiving end of one of these lawsuits, which can be extremely costly.

Aside from the legal threat, the World Health Organization estimated that over 15% of the global population suffers from some form of disability. As a result, business owners are making a big mistake by neglecting users with disabilities since they will inadvertently exclude a significant portion of the user market from interacting with their brand.

Fortunately, AI technology offers new solutions that can help website owners improve the accessibility of their sites, opening their services to people of all ability levels. As these technologies improve, we can only hope that the internet will eventually become fully accessible to all users.