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Digital Accessibility: Tech’s Role in Bridging the Gap

Digital Accessibility

Digital technology has transformed everyday life in the last couple of decades in a way never dreamt of earlier. However, not everyone can reap the benefits of digital technology, especially for people with disabilities.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, 61 million, or as much as 26% of adults living in the US, have some type of disability. In such a scenario, tech has a significant role in bridging the gap to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy equitable and comfortable access to digital tools, devices, and systems. Let’s look at ways to do this.

1) What makes technology genuinely accessible?

More businesses are developing technology products that cater to the needs of users with disabilities by making them truly accessible. For example, in a web browser, we can now zoom in on text or images.

Such functionality allows people with visual disabilities to access information on laptops and mobile devices. Another feature that helps make technology accessible is text-to-speech (TTS) software.

TTS software reads written content aloud, ensuring that even people who have severe vision impairment can access the content. Of course, the content should be formatted in a way that lets the TTS software transform it into speech.

Hence, companies that develop websites should provide alternate text to clearly describe both videos and images so that the software can read the text coherently.

2) Accessible technology for web-based products

When it comes to web-based products, all stakeholders involved in building the product should ensure that common barriers to digital accessibility are bridged by using appropriate methods. Some typical barriers are:

– Poorly designed web pages don’t consider coloring and contrast and end up being difficult for color-blind or visually challenged people to access.

– Interfaces having excessive graphics resulting in screen readers being unable to identify or describe illustrative elements of web pages.

– Lack of keyboard navigation shortcuts (such as the tab or shift+tab keys) causing barriers to a disabled user from being able to transit logically through software products.

– Information overload, with web pages having excessive multimedia elements.

In such a scenario, international accessibility standards as specified by the Web Accessibility Initiative need to be implemented at the planning and design stage of building websites and other web applications.

3) Incorporate accessibility testing in the SDLC

Project Managers and Project Owners should make every effort to incorporate accessibility testing in the software development lifecycle (SDLC).

With lawsuits related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) going up by 23% in 2020 compared to 2019, every day almost ten new businesses face lawsuits related to non-compliance with the ADA.

In such a scenario, companies need to consider the growing need for accessibility testing to ensure compliance with the ADA. Furthermore, businesses need to choose between manual vs. automated accessibility testing.

The pros and cons of both testing approaches need to be considered carefully. Again, which testing approach to opt for will depend on the journey of the businesses towards achieving digital accessibility.

4) The use of AI-powered tech to improve website accessibility

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not just a buzzword anymore. In the last decade, there have been many practical implementations of AI. When it comes to websites, AI-powered tech helps with website accessibility.

Some of the ways it does this are in more intuitive keyboard navigation, transforming content and design elements to make them more accessible, and alternative login verification methods. Apart from these ways, AI-powered platforms are usually multi-lingual and can automatically transform websites to comply with local regulations.

5) Digital Access for everybody

Accessibility using technology means making digital experiences available to all kinds of users. Ensuring that you use tech to bridge the gap and achieve true accessibility will mean that information on the world wide web truly benefits everybody.

One thing to keep in mind is that there can be multiple approaches to accessibility, from improving user flows to updating content to technically upgrading websites and apps to cater to reduced running requirements. 

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