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Become accessible and compliant with accessiBe

Become accessible and compliant with accessiBe

Karen Wilson

My name is Josh Basile and I am a C4-5 quadriplegic paralyzed below my shoulders and a power wheelchair user. Since becoming paralyzed as a teenager, I graduated from college and then magna cum laude from law school. My disability empowered me to become an advocate for life and the disability community leader focusing my time and energy on breaking down barriers to independent living, employment, and web accessibility. In February 2021, I joined accessiBe as the Community Relations Manager where I work closely with the entire accessiBe family from leadership to new hires, and most importantly with the disability community to help improve awareness and educational opportunities to tackle the web accessibility gap.

Please describe what accessiBe does and what inspired the idea for the company?

accessiBe is on a mission to make the Internet more accessible and usable for people with disabilities. Since the 1990s, the Internet continued to quickly grow and evolve with millions of new websites every year. Unfortunately, most website owners choose to not code their websites with accessibility from the beginning resulting in accessibility being an afterthought. In the past web accessibility was not prioritized because of a lack of awareness, associated complexities, and tens of thousands of dollars in projected expenses.

The Founders of accessiBe recognized that something needed to be done to address the ever-expanding web accessibility gap further dividing accessible and inaccessible websites. There was a great need for a scalable solution to proactively address the fact that less than 2% of the Internet was meeting accessibility guidelines and hundreds of millions of websites remained inaccessible. The negative impacts of the web accessibility gap on people with disabilities inspired the Founders to develop accessiBe’s accessWidget and with time grew the company to become the market-leading full web accessibility hub that it is today.

Are there other companies who offer a similar service? How do you stand out from these?

There are other companies that try to improve accessibility and usability of websites. accessiBe differs from these companies for a number of reasons.

First, accessiBe’s flagship product, accessWidget, is the most powerful and customizable AI-powered solution out on the market helping to address accessibility and to improve usability for people with disabilities. The technology was built with the disability community and is continuously being tested by the disability community. This ensures that it’s not just living up to compliance requirements but that it also can continuously advance and improve user experience. The accessWidget provides powerful profiles specifically made for differing abilities such as persons living with epilepsy, vision impairments, motor disabilities, cognitive disabilities, ADHD, blind and low vision. Along with these game-changing profiles, visitors can further customize their experience through content, color, and orientation adjustments. All of this combined together provides visitors with new superpowers based on their unique abilities creating choices on how they want to experience a website. As a quadriplegic paralyzed below my shoulders, I rely on my onscreen keyboard, mouth-controlled mouse cursor, voice dictation software, and screen reader software. The accessWidget breaks down barriers that previously would have prevented me from navigating a website, accessing menus and forms, locating and clicking on hyperlinks, or having better compatibility with my specific assistive technology. The accessWidget has improved my quality of life by having more inclusion on websites and has led to better experiences and more opportunities.

Second, compared to other companies accessiBe takes their services to another level by not just providing a tool like accessWidget but by being a full web accessibility hub offering important remediation and professional services. On top of the accessWidget solution, accessiBe helps companies of all sizes tackle remediation of PDF’s and video captioning, and offers valuable services to achieve and maintain both native and integrated accessibility.

Third, accessiBe is heavily involved with the disability community both by hiring workers with disabilities and collaborating through accessiBe’s Nonprofit Partnership Program. Working with and learning from the disability community and hundreds of disability-focused organizations creates the important relationships and conversations to bring awareness about inclusion and accessibility on the Internet. Beautiful things happen with power in numbers and when people with disabilities come together to pursue educational and awareness opportunities.

How do you use AI to make the internet more accessible?

accessiBe’s AI technology is a powerful tool that is constantly working behind the scenes to locate and address numerous accessibility barriers that could only previously be completed through manual coding. Recognizing problem areas that create access barriers then allows for opportunities to make much-needed accessibility fixes. AI technology streamlines many of these fixes and does so by scanning a website every 24 hours 365 days per year. Websites are constantly being updated on a daily and weekly basis making it more important than ever for AI technology to work behind the scenes to identify areas that need to be addressed. In the past, website coders would have to make required changes one website at a time, and with accessiBe’s AI technology making updates and changes can be completed on hundreds of thousands of websites simultaneously. AI technology allows for more scalability especially when it comes to addressing the hundreds of millions of websites that remain inaccessible.

How accessiBe’s AI-powered solution, accessWidget, helps blind users shop online (Heatonist.com)

What do you think are the biggest barriers and challenges to websites being ADA & WCAG compliant?

I think the biggest barriers and challenges to making websites ADA and WCAG compliant come from outdated assumptions. Many businesses have avoided making their websites accessible out of fears that it is going to be too complex of a process, that they don’t have the time needed to do it right, or it’s going to be too costly. Many of these previous assumptions may have been true in the past but with advancements in technology and more streamlined approaches to professional services, making your website accessible is more achievable than ever. The first step to making any existing website more accessible is to understand its actual level of accessibility and usability. accessiBe has created a free auditing tool called Ace that helps any website owner better understand whether they are doing a great and where they are falling short. Recognizing what needs to be addressed provides options on how to best move forward to bring more accessibility and inclusion to any website.

What generally prompts companies to become compliant?

In the past, most companies chose to address the compliance of their websites out of fear of future litigation. This is changing for a lot of companies as they are recognizing that avoiding litigation is not the only benefit from investing in web accessibility. Businesses are recognizing that an investment in the disability community is a smart business opportunity. People with disabilities make up one-fourth of the US population. Companies are always looking to reach new untapped customers and never intentionally want to block future customers or a future sale. The best way to ensure that a business can reach as many of the 61 million people with disabilities is to improve the accessibility and usability of their website. Customers with disabilities come back again and again as repeat customers. Studies have recognized that people with disabilities are one of the most brand-loyal populations and have a $490 billion annual spending power. The market potential is even greater when companies recognize that the entire disability community, which also includes family members, friends, and support providers, encompasses a $1.2 trillion market segment. Companies that openly invest and welcome people with disabilities improve their brand, reputation, marketing, and revenues

What are some of your biggest achievements over the last two years?

accessiBe’s biggest achievement is the positive impact they have had on the millions of visitors to websites benefiting from the accessWidget technology. Improving the accessibility and usability of websites create better experiences for visitors of all abilities. In 2021, accessiBe became the first web accessibility company to run a national TV campaign focused on disability and web accessibility. The Unstoppables campaign turned many heads and raised important awareness for businesses across the country that web accessibility matters.

National TV Commercial | Web accessibility is accessiBe
Since joining accessiBe in February 2021, I am proud of how accessiBe has grown as a company. It has been eye-opening to witness firsthand how accessiBe continuously hires more and more workers with disabilities to join all levels of the Company operations. This safeguards that people with disabilities have a seat at the table to create an atmosphere fostering the constant improvement of accessiBe technologies, professional services, and educational programs bring more accessibility to the Internet and the disability community as a whole.

As a quadriplegic paralyzed below my shoulders and as a power wheelchair user, I am proud to work alongside a company that cares about the disability community and wants to be part of the solution and to proactively address the web accessibility gap. Not enough companies choose to invest in areas impacting people with disabilities. The investments and efforts that accessiBe is putting it into web accessibility is transforming the lives of people with disabilities for the better leading to more opportunities and better futures.

The accessiBe Spotlight Series podcast shines a light on incredible individuals and organizations, and the work that they are doing to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. As a co-host, I had the privilege to interview dozens of changemakers within the disability community. Interviewing rockstars and legends from the disability community, such as Judith Heumann and John Kemp, with a highlight for me.

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