September 18, 2019
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are all around us. It’s how Facebook’s algorithm decides what posts should populate our social media feeds, and in what order. It’s how Google performs a reverse image search. If something can be automated with a purpose-built AI solution, chances are that the AI solution will perform its task far more quickly and much more proactively than its manual alternative.
Can you imagine going through every website online, one by one, in search of the best answer to a question you may have? Achieving WCAG compliance with AI works in much the same way.
Web accessibility has become an increasingly pressing issue for online business owners, as well as more owners and managers of more traditional business that also have an online presence. Companies of all sizes can benefit from leveraging AI to achieve compliance with legislation, maximize business opportunities, and minimize potential litigation.
What Is WCAG Compliance
Just as there are best practices for designing a mobile-optimized website, there are some ideals that you would like to achieve in designing an accessible website too. This means having a website that is reasonably usable and easy-to-navigate, even for individuals who may have disabilities or impairments that would otherwise affect their ability to navigate and use your website. Font choice and font size, for example, is something you want to keep in mind for people who may have difficulty reading smaller text against a low-contrast background.
But these best practices are not just some sort of vague objective you’d like to achieve. They’ve been officially codified in the form of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Known more simply as WCAG 2.1, these guidelines cover a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible for all users. This involves making your web content more accessible for people with impaired or limited vision, for example, as well as those who may have speech disabilities, limited movement, photo sensitivity, hearing loss or deafness, and some learning disabilities.
Understandably, these sorts of accommodations must be applied on both desktop devices — like a desktop or laptop computer — and mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets. WCAG compliance is then graded on three levels, starting from A, moving up to AA, and finally up to AAA. Broadly speaking, most legislation and court rulings, at least in the United States, have called for at least an AA level of compliance.
Why WCAG Compliance Matters
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was first conceived as a way of ensuring accessibility in public places, including brick-and-mortar businesses. Of course, someone with limited mobility should still able to shop in any store that they’d like. The same philosophy has since been extended to the digital space to encapsulate public-facing websites too. Someone with limited vision, for example, should still be able to utilize an e-commerce site for online shopping without too much trouble.
Even beyond concerns relating to official legislation, many lawsuits have been launched against companies that do not comply with WCAG. Literally tens of thousands of lawsuits and demand letters are served in the United States every year. By failing to achieve WCAG compliance, you leave your business vulnerable to incredibly costly lawsuits that could cripple your company and its resources.
WCAG compliance is especially important for online businesses, because the website is the primary entity that represents the company and faces the company.
You must remember that somewhere between 15 and 25 percent of the western world’s general population is considered disabled to a degree of not being able to use the Internet effectively and independently without assistance. This includes assistance from another human being, assistance from some form of technology (like a screen reader), or some combination of the two. By making your website as accessible as possible, and that involves WCAG compliance, you are opening up your business to customers who may otherwise skip what you have to offer.
A higher level of web accessibility is valuable for your brand’s reputation, demonstrating social responsibility. It also comes with profound SEO benefits, because more accessible sites lead to better user experiences, lower bounce rates, and more time on site. These are all signals that go into a better SEO ranking performance.
Utilizing AI to Automate Web Accessibility
Especially with complicated sites — like those that involve frequent updates, e-commerce integration, or user-generated content — it can be incredibly difficult to achieve compliance quickly and easily. Website plugins are often incomplete, not achieving ADA or WCAG compliance, as they only work toward solving individual components of overall web accessibility.
What’s more, manual services for web accessibility can prove very expensive, starting as high as $20,000 without maintenance for just the first project. Maintaining web accessibility is close to impossible for these sorts of manual projects, as each and every small change to a website — like posting new content or adding a new feature — requires a web accessibility expert to audit and approve.
So how can site owners make their website WCAG compliant? This is where advanced technology can step in to address so many of these concerns, automatically, effectively, and affordably. accessiBe is the simplest and most affordable web accessibility tool on the market.
Because it is powered by artificial intelligence, this web accessibility solution is totally automatic. It runs every 24 hours on its own, so even for websites with frequent updates, you’re able to maintain the same high level of WCAG compliance. And since pricing starts from $490 annually, it’s far more affordable than the minimum $20,000 investment on just a single compliance project.
This ensures not only that your website is fully accessible from day one, but the automated monitoring checks to guarantee continuous complete compliance. Contrast this with a manual web accessibility solution where your website could fall out of compliance a few weeks or months down the road.
Your Next Steps
AI makes it far easier (and more affordable) to achieve the WCAG compliance you desire. Better still, your web design choices aren’t limited by accessibility requirements, as an AI solution like that offered by accessiBe can account for that automatically. Website performance is also unaffected, leading to the best possible user experience for all users, regardless of any disabilities or impairments. And it all starts by making the decision that universal accessibility is important to you and your business.
Kristel Staci, is an entrepreneur tech blogger and social media expert, who also specializes in connected online influencers and big brands through original content, round ups and interviews.