TL; DR: Even though the internet is meant to be inclusive, access to the World Wide Web is not universal. It’s time now for every website to strive for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines so people with disabilities or impairments can experience the web the way everyone else has for decades. AudioEye is a software company dedicated to improving web accessibility for individuals with disabilities, including visual, audio, and physical impairments. We sat down with Mase Graye, CTO and Chief Software Architect of AudioEye, to see what’s in-store.
The beautiful thing about the internet is that there’s something for everyone. The internet has become a space where people have access to unlimited knowledge, diverse communities, and the ability to creatively express themselves as they learn, explore, discuss, and share.
Want to join a local walking group? Check your town’s Facebook page. Need to discuss your favorite show’s series finale? There’s an entire subreddit dedicated to it. Looking to share some of your writing and art? Try Tumblr, Wattpad, DeviantArt — or dozens of other platforms out there.
But imagine going to one of these websites and being met with a blank screen. Or blurred text. Or broken pictures. Or a glitching webpage. This is what people with disabilities often experience when browsing the internet.
The hard truth is many individuals with disabilities often face significant challenges in accessing the internet’s full potential.
For example, if website owners don’t provide alt text or captions on their images, people with visual impairments won’t understand the content. Studies also show that those with color blindness cannot read text on 86% of websites due to poor color contrast. In addition to bad web design, there are many issues with assistive technologies, such as incompatible screen reader software between the end user and the website.
These issues only scratch the surface — but the company AudioEye delves deep.
AudioEye is a software company that aims to create a personalized and accessible experience for everyone on the internet. Mase Graye, CTO and Chief Software Architect, tells us how the company started and where it’s going next.
First Things First: Understanding Digital Accessibility
Did you know there are an estimated 1.3 billion people living with a significant disability? To put this in perspective, imagine a room filled with just six people. Statistically speaking, one of them is likely to have some type of disability.
When it comes to digital accessibility, there are four main principles outlined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): All web content should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
- Perceivable: All website elements should be visually perceivable to the user. For instance, images should have descriptive captions and alternative text.
- Operable: Websites should be intuitive so users can easily navigate via various methods. This is especially important for users who rely solely on a keyboard or joystick for browsing.
- Understandable: Content and user interface (UI) elements should be designed in a way that is clear and easy to understand. Users should be able to comprehend the information presented without confusion or ambiguity.
- Robust: Websites should remain accessible as technologies and websites evolve. This includes considerations for website updates and compatibility with assistive technologies such as screen readers.
Complex websites with complicated layouts, confusing navigation, and excessive ads are nearly impossible to use by a large portion of the population.
To AudioEye, the answer seemed within reach.
“AudioEye initially began as a research company more than 17 years ago,” Mase said. “Over time, the company evolved and began providing managed accessibility services. Eventually, the founders developed a technology platform so others could benefit from it.”
Today, AudioEye aids in identifying and eliminating barriers, ensuring compliance with legal standards, and providing continuous training, monitoring, and maintenance.
AudioEye offers a comprehensive suite of accessibility tests and fixes. This approach is based on a pool of accessibility test data informed by individuals who use assistive technologies. This way, AudioEye ensures compatibility with these tools, provides guidance on enhancing visual accessibility, and guarantees compliance with WCAG and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Integrating Generative AI for Web Accessibility
The world is riding a new wave, and it’s called artificial intelligence. Of course, this is no surprise since AI simplifies processes, requiring less manual labor and in-depth knowledge.
AudioEye leverages AI technology to automatically detect and address accessibility issues, allowing for personalized solutions tailored to each user’s preferences and abilities without the high cost of hiring consultants.
While AI has been around since the mid-1950s, human intervention remains crucial to avoid likely risks. One major risk is bias and discrimination.
“AI has the reputation of being the perfect solution — but if you’re not careful about how you’re personalizing solutions, you could accidentally introduce bias to the information, and then the personalization can look like discrimination,” explained Mase.
The truth is it’s easy to automate something bad and hard to automate something good, Mase continued. There are quality risks, like biased training that results from a lack of diversity in dev teams and can give users bad advice.
AudioEye intentionally integrates voices from the disability community into the feedback loop process.
“If we talk about responsible use of AI and accessibility, it has to be hammered by the person taking that angle (people with disabilities),” said Mase.
After all, technology alone can’t find every accessibility barrier.
“We’re lucky because we have data scientists who ensure we’re not drawing false conclusions. We have the disability community involved in the actual experiment and validated the results,” said Mase.
Keeping the Target Audience at the Forefront
The last thing anybody wants is to speak for a group of people without their input.
(Think back to the dawn of imperialism in the US, when colonizers claimed to represent the interest of indigenous peoples without actually seeking their input or consent.)
Introducing AudioEye’s A11iance community: A11iance comprises a team of testers who use their firsthand experience to test AudioEye’s solutions using assistive technologies.
The tester pool comprises people with visual, audio, and physical impairments, ranging from no vision and hard of hearing to cerebral palsy.
AudioEye uses its A11iance community to better understand how its services and products can achieve better outcomes. For example, A11iance testers might look for:
- The compatibility and effectiveness of AudioEye’s solutions with different assistive technologies
- Assessing the user-friendliness and accessibility of AudioEye’s client websites
- Providing feedback and identifying potential barriers or challenges by people with specific or unique impairments that might not traditionally be considered
“When we talk about AI and accessibility, the people with disabilities determine the bar,” explained Mase. “It’s a high bar, and it will take a long time to hit it. But we think we’re on the right path.”
As for what’s next, AudioEye continues to prioritize advancing its software, incorporating AI into creating personalized experiences, and relying on those who know what it’s like to live in a world where the web could be more accessible.
If you want to get your accessibility compliance score, you can for free with AudioEye. You can also sign up to have members of the A11iance team test and score your website personally. Or better yet, get the whole package when you sign up: Schedule a demo with the upcoming leaders of digital accessibility today.