Despite efforts, businesses struggle with accessibility

Some of the reasons for this are linked to the sheer volume of digital content and the complexity of the Internet. The dynamic nature of content constantly poses a challenge to businesses and content creators who want to reach as wide an audience as possible and meet the expectations of all users, including people with disabilities. Consumers today expect personal content, interactive features and intuitive interface for finding information, shopping, entertaining, etc. This level of personalization requires constant changes in content based on user behavior, preferences and other data. Unfortunately, every change comes with the risk of making the content inaccessible to disabled users.

Other reasons for the slow progress on accessibility are related to the ambiguity between the legal and technical frameworks and the misleading discourse around solutions. For websites to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar state laws, they should be accessible to people browsing the Internet using support technology such as screen readers. The ADA, signed into law in 1990, does not provide guidance or specific legal criteria for the implementation of digital accessibility. Instead, the courts and the Department of Justice rely on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as the Web Accessibility Standard. But much remains to be interpreted, including how many and which WCAG criteria a website needs to comply with to be considered ADA compliant.

To better understand how these and other forces have shaped accessibility today, AudioEye, an industry-leading website accessibility platform, recently analyzed a large amount of website data and conducted user surveys.

Most websites are not accessible to people with disabilities

In AudioEye’s analysis of 3,500 randomly selected websites in 22 industries, we found that 83 percent of e-commerce, 78 percent of healthcare and 77 percent of jobs and career sites had accessibility issues that hindered or hindered the screen reader user’s ability to complete. Critical tasks, such as viewing a product description, completing a purchase, filling out an application, or booking an appointment.

As our reliance on the Internet to manage our daily lives and livelihoods grows in the Covid-19 era, digital accessibility is becoming crucial, increasing the pressure on government to take further action. In March 2022, the Department of Justice published a new guideline confirming the accessibility of websites under the ADA. While the guidance does not provide a legal standard, it advocates the use of WCAGs and lists recent settlements that reflect the Department of Justice’s decision in web accessibility lawsuits. Written in clear and straightforward language, the guidance is clear — Digital accessibility is essential, and it is a priority.

Accessibility vendors simplify automation-only tools, such as widgets that adjust content on the fly without modifying the original website code, identifying necessary changes to source code, ranging from labor-intensive, costly manual audits to burdens on the site. Owners to implement them. No approach can offer ongoing accessibility and inclusive experiences in its own way. But for many companies, especially for small businesses with limited resources, deciding on an accessibility solution has become an affordable affair.

In 2021, in an audioI survey of business leaders and web professionals, 70 percent of the 500 mentioned “cost” as the top concern for making their website accessible. In a similar survey, more than 65 percent said they believe websites can be made “almost completely accessible” using only the Accessibility Automation-Only toolbar. In comparison, 52 percent said creating an accessible website means redesigning and redeveloping the entire website.

These misleading beliefs further contribute to ambiguity in the implementation of accessibility. As our analysis of 20,000 websites shows, simple and inexpensive accessibility automation-only solutions are not the perfect solution. Second, rebuilding an entire website, which is expensive and time consuming, is not the answer. Finally, the traditional approach to improving website accessibility relies on accessibility experts who periodically conduct manual site audits, which is expensive and does not measure up.

There are 1.9 billion websites, with 250,000 new sites being launched every day. Even if our goal is to make only half of the Internet accessible, we will need 83.5 billion hours to achieve our goal, assuming that it takes an average of 88 hours to manually fix a site. The Internet is too big and fast-changing just for the manual approach. To scale digital accessibility on a scale, without considering the cost of hiring millions of accessibility specialists to work, a completely manual process is not possible.

What’s more, manual audits and solutions are still not a futile approach to accessibility. Upon conducting a manual audit of 55 randomly selected websites using traditional audit and prevention services, AudioEye found that 41 of these sites had one or more serious accessibility issues, such as non-functional site navigation, unlabelled graphics, inaccessible video controls and Other problems that make digital content and tools inaccessible to people with disabilities. We’ve found hundreds of issues with audited sites that have either not yet been fixed on the source code, or missed.

In summary, our research shows that most business websites are not accessible to users with disabilities, even sites where significant time and money were spent using traditional manual approaches. Our research has also confirmed that while technology widgets are scalable, they rarely lead to an accessible site.

A hybrid approach to digital accessibility

Based on AudioEye’s research and the overall state of accessibility, it is clear that we need an ongoing, sustainable and affordable solution that enables business owners and web professionals to create inclusive experiences for every user right now while resolving the scale of the Internet. In the long run. Today that solution is a hybrid approach that ensures responsible, transparent implementation of technology backed by subject matter experts.

AudioEye’s analysis of more than a thousand websites across popular content management systems shows that AudioEye’s automation can detect 70 percent of common web accessibility issues, such as missing links and image alternative text, and solve about two-thirds of them. AudioEye’s automation software results were compared with manual testing and solution conducted by experienced supporting technology QA testers.

While helping to make quick improvements to the automation scale, our team of certified experts and supporting technology users manually test content on a variety of browsers and supporting technologies that require in-depth contextual understanding to solve problems and ensure that our solution is final. Continues to work for the user.

Learn more about AudioEye’s research and approach.

This content was created by AudioEye. It was not written by the editorial staff of MIT Technology Review.

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