5 ways AI helps steer away from website accessibility lawsuits

Published October 16, 2019   |   

According to The American Community Survey (ACS), the overall rate of people with disabilities in the U.S was 12.8% in 2016. Also, estimates show that the percentage of those with a disability in the US civilian population increased gradually from 11.9% in 2010 to 12.8% in 2016.

This survey also states that only 21.6% of disabled users access the web compared to 42.1% who are unable to do so.

These figures show that users with disabilities constitute a major segment of potential online users and ignoring this segment may hit businesses hard, specifically small businesses. It is, thus, important that website design agencies focus on developing accessible websites. Design agencies must understand that accessible websites are not just the right thing to do but also help companies stay away from legal repercussions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) emphasizes the prohibition of discrimination against people with disabilities. In this context, it stresses the importance of equal access to users with disabilities.

Website owners must be aware of these laws and ensure that their websites are inclusive of users with major cognitive, vision, hearing, speech, cognition or fine motor disabilities. Websites that do not comply with these laws invite serious litigation, as ADA lawsuits in 2018 rose to an alarming number of 2258, as opposed to only 814 lawsuits in 2017. This figure is expected to triple by the end of 2019.

Furthermore, organizations that focus on accessible websites can deliver better customer experiences and avoid web accessibility lawsuits.

accessiBe is an AI-empowered web accessibility tool that equips website design agencies to automatically apply accessibility standards to websites. It scans and analyses every component of the website and applies the required modifications within 48 hours. This tool has simplified the development of accessible websites thereby saving several businesses from potential lawsuits.

The importance of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Laws

The WCAG laws of accessibility explain the guidelines that accessible websites must meet.

Here’s an overview of these standards:

Creating perceivable sites

Care must be taken that content on the website is in simplified layouts with ample information and clarity of structure. Website design agencies must ensure to create a distinguishable interface to make content easier to see, hear, including separating foreground items from backgrounds.

Designing operable interfaces and pages

Website design agencies must ensure they facilitate appropriate navigation on the website. It is important to avoid flashy content that triggers physical reactions for the benefit of users suffering from epilepsy.

Showcasing understandable and disabled-friendly content/interfaces

 The design of the web interface should be easy-to-understand and straightforward. The content on the web must be easy to read and comprehend. Avoid long-form text to accommodate users with different kinds of disabilities. The web pages should operate predictably. There must be an inclusion of automated tools that provide suggestions to disabled users that help correct minor mistakes like typos.

Robust content

 The content should be robust enough to be reliably translated by assistive technologies for the benefit of disabled users. Additionally, Website design agencies must ensure content stays accessible to users on par with shifting trends and demands. They should focus on maximizing the compatibility of the website with emerging assistive technologies.

How does AI help?

Creating equal access to the web improves communication and creativity. AI empowers web design agencies to overcome the risks of website accessibility lawsuits in several ways.

Accommodating a user-friendly site structure

A disabled-friendly site structure includes a simple website without any unpredictable navigation controls. This helps users with disabilities access the web comfortably.

AI-based facial recognition is one such technology. It allows users to access password-protected accounts/content on websites without the need to type in a password or enter a CAPTCHA code.

This technique addresses several challenges amongst the disabled users involved in online authentication.  For example, users suffering from visual impairments may find it difficult to use and manage passwords. Furthermore, users with physical disabilities may have trouble typing their passwords every time they need access to a protected website. Facial recognition helps them overcome these concerns and access websites that demand authentication.

AI-enabled facial recognition stands distinguished due to its capability to identify and authenticate the right information in spite of the vast exposure to data. AI can identify multiple photos of the same person from different angles. It learns from experiences and makes the right assumptions about recognizing the individual in front of the camera. This in-built competency of AI-enabled facial recognition helps in easy authentication and simplified access to the web for disabled users.

Allowing keyboard navigation functionalities

AI has played an important role in helping website design agencies to develop accessible websites. Aiming to comply with the WCAG laws, accessiBe’s automated web accessibility tool implements an AI-powered application that runs in the background of websites. In addition to analyzing the website structure, it scans the functionalities of website components like pop-ups, dropdowns, forms and internal windows that need attention to obtain a fully accessible website.

Furthermore, accessiBe generates keyboard navigation functionalities with a focus on the blind and the physically impaired. This helps users with visual impairments better understand and access the website.

This tool provides accessible content that includes:

  • Adjustments to the font, text size, spacing, color contrast, cursors, and typography to facilitate accessibility for the visually impaired.
  • Option to disable animations and flashing GIFs for the comfort of epileptic users.
  • Allows the use of virtual keyboards that proves to be an essential component for the physically impaired.

Including text descriptions for images

Though alt text has been used as an attribute in HTML code to offer an image context and help search engines index such images easily, AI-empowered alt text can add more value. Leveraging AI makes visual content better accessible to users with visual impairments. For example, consider Instagram that has rolled out a new feature to ease access to disabled users. According to Instagram, this feature will benefit nearly 285 million users with visual impairments to experience better website accessibility.

The feature is the inclusion of automatic alt text that describes images through screen readers while using the Feed, Explore, and Profile options. It uses the object recognition technology that is a type of computer-vision AI to generate a description of the photos while browsing them through screen readers.

The WCAG success criterion 1.1.1 emphasizes on non-text content. It highlights the need for alternative text on websites for images and other non-text content. The inclusion of AI-enabled automated alt text on websites will help overcome legal lawsuits concerning this.

Facilitating an accessible interface with essential features

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 217 million people with severe vision impairment. Web accessibility includes a focus on the importance of color contrast for the benefit of these users. According to the W3C, the contrast ratio between the text and its background should be at least 4.5 to 1.

Incorporating focus indicators help users with disabilities to understand navigation through the website. Especially for users who are visually impaired and use screen readers, and people with physical limitations. Focus indicators highlight the use of links, form fields, widgets, buttons, and menu items.

The role of Artificial Intelligence is to semantically structure a website considering the above-mentioned aspects. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can convert mockup website designs into fully functional codes can be done with the capabilities of . Though this aspect of AI is still in its nascent stages, algorithms have been trained to understand the intent of web design. By tuning AI algorithms to the WCAG laws, accessible websites can be easily developed in unison with other domains like image and speech recognition and natural language understanding for better results.

Provisioning accessible web design elements

Inclusion of live captions and titles improve website accessibility. Closed captioning on websites is the visual display of the audio component in a video. It helps assist the deaf or users with hearing impairments to access information.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 15% of American adults or 37.5 million, aged 18 and over, report some trouble hearing.

To cater to the needs of users with hearing impairments, YouTube includes automated closed captioning for all the videos. Automated closed captioning is empowered by AI speech recognition technology that performs a contextual analysis to evaluate words while dealing with words or phrases of the same sound. This system weighs possible results from probabilities and zeros on the most likely sequence of words from the possible combinations. Trainable closed captioning masters the nuances of pronunciation that results in an accurate visual transcription of the audio content.

Wrapping up

Adherence to the WCAG guidelines has become mandatory. Website design agencies must understand this significance and work towards emphasizing the adoption of these guidelines and developing accessible websites. Adopting any of the above-mentioned competencies of AI will empower web design agencies in creating inclusive websites for the benefit of the disabled users and also avoid legal lawsuits.