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Making the Web Accessible

Published January 20, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasized that access to the internet is continually growing more pertinent to function within society. Work, school, and even social activities rely on the internet, leading to a significant increase in online use. While most people could adapt to this new way of living, some suffer from physical, intellectual, developmental, or sensory disabilities and cannot access certain websites. In particular, social media platforms often praise their user-friendly design; however, a number of their features are not compliant with disability standards. In the current state of the world, accessibility for all is especially relevant to ensure inclusivity and follow evolving guidelines.

Web accessibility is a set of rules, code standards, and design protocols intended to allow people with disabilities to use websites effectively. Approximately fifteen percent of the world’s population identifies themselves with having a disability, and approximately seventy percent of websites contain “accessibility blocks.” With the recent shift to online ventures, making payments, shopping, working, and fulfilling other responsibilities are becoming increasingly difficult for a significant portion of the world’s population, which has led to adverse effects from both a legal and an economic standpoint. The future of businesses relies on the internet; a 2019 statistic published by the Statista Research Department estimated that “1.92 billion people purchased goods or services online. During that same year, e-retail sales surpassed 3.5 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide”. An aversion to online shopping from the disabled community would minimize potential profits. Web accessibility has also become a legal battle. Numerous companies saw a 200 percent increase in lawsuits and demand letters from 2017 to 2018, with 93 percent of those demand letters settling for between 20,000 to 150,000 dollars.

Fortunately, there are existing regulations that attempt to prevent cases of exclusivity or discrimination. The World Wide Web Consortium created the “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” 2.1, otherwise known as WCAG 2.1, to guide developers in making websites accessible. The WCAG 2.1 has been adopted by governments worldwide and is now a part of various legislations, such as the ADA, Section 508, EN 301549, and others. Aside from government intervention, companies such as AcessiBe work towards revolutionizing web accessibility. AccessiBe is the first and only AI-powered solution that makes web accessibility simple, automatic, and affordable, in compliance with WCAG 2.1. This platform allows users to enable color changing, safe seizure features, visually impaired modifications, and various other design customizations on a website. AcessiBe also provides litigation support packages for businesses that have received demand letters. Recently, AccesiBe has gained traction within the web developing community. The company was featured on Forbes magazine and secured a $12 million capital funding from global investment firm K1 Investment Management, LLC. Following AccesiBe’s success, the Online Accessibility Act was introduced in October 2020. This bill sets forth “requirements for consumer-facing websites and mobile applications owned or operated by a private entity and guidance regarding standards for website accessibility by the disabled.” The Online Accessibility Act was drafted to prohibit an individual’s exclusion or discrimination based on disability from being denied the full and equal benefits and services from a website or application. With the support of accessibility software companies, this upcoming legislature is slowly making the web a safer, more inclusive, and truly “user-friendly” space for people with disabilities.

W3C provides more information on examples and tools on how to make a website more accessible.