Accessible technology advocates are warning against the accessibility of the internet, arguing that it is currently not near enough for people with disabilities. The notion was heavily backed up by Susan Schiltz, an advocate for accessible technology in Canada. During her presentation at the Disabilities Arts and Culture Festival in Canada, she argued that even though there are efforts to make the internet more accessible for disabled individuals, it is nowhere near close to becoming a reality. “We’re not close to being there yet,” she said during her presentation. “There’s still much to do.
Schiltz also specifically added that the internet is generally becoming more and more accessible. Yet, there remain specific areas such as mobile apps and games that need to be worked on. She specifically noted that it is problematic for blind individuals to play games on their mobile devices due to problems with text-to-speech. “It’s not just entertainment,” she said. “It’s about education and employment.”
Schiltz is currently working with companies such as Microsoft and IBM to try and create more accessible technologies for disabled users. Her efforts come at a time when there are increasingly more individuals utilizing mobile devices and social media platforms, which comes with its own set of accessibility problems.
One company looking to turn the tide is accessiBe. They have created an online service that can help companies make more accessible websites for people with disabilities. Their platform is AI-driven and helps provide screen readers with the correct order of content on a website. The technology currently works on WordPress sites, but they are working to make it more adaptable for other CMS systems as well.
“It’s the first AI service of its kind to help screen readers correctly parse content on a website,” said AccessiBe Chief Vision Officer Michael Hingson. “Creating more accessible websites using our service is easy; simply install the free WordPress plugin and connect it to your account with us.”
By utilizing this technology, companies can potentially reach more people than ever before. This is because more than one out of every five individuals have a disability of some kind, and the number continues to grow as society ages.
As of right now, it’s estimated that disabled individuals are conducting over 56 percent of online shopping purchases. Also, 40 percent of teenagers with autism spectrum disorder report they are bullied while using social media, resulting in less time on these platforms.
“The digital economy for disabled people is largely an untapped market,” added Hingson. “By making websites more accessible through our free WordPress plugin, businesses can tap into this market.”
Individuals interested in learning more about how to make their websites more accessible can visit the accessiBe website to sign up for a free trial. More information on their service and platform can be found on the blog of their company website as well.
For those interested in hearing Susan Schiltzs’ full presentation from the Disabilities Arts and Culture Festival, a video of her talk can be seen on YouTube.