Awareness of accessibility is growing, but is it turning into action? - TechCrunch
For nearly two years, people everywhere have made major changes in how they interact with the world. It caused many to change their daily behavior. Unfortunately, some of these changes would make day - to - day activities much more intimidating for anyone in need of access or accommodation.
Harris Poll reveals that more than half of American adults have increased their online activities due to the pandemics. That number grows to 60% for people with disabilities.
The increase in online activities does not mean that everyone is able to achieve their goals. So, what is the impact of the crisis on accessibility? Are organizations finally getting the message about the importance of accessibility?
Raised awareness of accessibility
In the last few years, has it felt like everywhere you look there is something about accessibility or people with disabilities? Many TV commercials from Big Tech companies have featured people with disabilities and accessible technology.
Apple started with the first prime-time ads on network television, followed by Microsoft, with an ad during the biggest game in America. In a Google ad, a deaf man calls his son for the first time using the Live Caption on his Pixel phone. And Amazon has an ad about Brendan, a deaf employee.
Clearly, a sense of accessibility is watching as it grows. In May, in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple, Google, and Microsoft announced a series of updates and accessibility - related features across their products. DAGERSystem has announced the upcoming Accessible Games Database, which is now live. Gamers can now find accessible games by platform and filter accessibility by categories of visual, visual, color, and fine motor.
It's great that tech companies are talking about accessibility, promoting it and even making it part of their marketing budget. But there is a difference between talking about it and acting: Talking about it does not make a website accessible. That requires action.
A recent Forrester study found that eight out of 10 companies are working on digital access. So, is anything changing? Can people use websites without barriers?
Did the increase in internet usage encourage accessibility?
That is the question that the State Report of Accessibility Report (SOAR) 2022 submitted for answer. The purpose of SOAR is to assess the current state of accessibility across companies and businesses. It is a tool to find out what has improved in accessibility and what needs to work.
The report has traditionally obtained accessibility metrics by analyzing the state of accessibility on the main Alexa websites. The report focuses on the most popular digital products rather than going for size. Change almost always starts at the top. As things improve at the top, the rest will follow.
The Pareto principle, known as the 80/20 rule, applies here. You will reach about 80% of the traffic with the top 20% of digital output.
Interestingly, the top 100 Alexa listings of 31 new websites in 2022 were not in the top 100 for 2022 or 2022. Only 60% of the previous websites appeared confirmed on the Alexa 100 list in 2022 on the 2022 list.
In reviewing the changes and the main Alexa websites at 100, it is easy to see how the online pandemic has changed. The main websites contained many productivity apps such as file transfer and collaboration tools, delivery services and communication tools like Zoom and Slack.
Speaking of video platforms, it is clear that the pandemic had a huge impact on their accessibility, especially where closed captioning is coming in. As of April 2022, none of the video platforms except Skype had automated subtitles. Unfortunately, the subtitles on Skype were not of the highest quality.
Google Meet captions before May 2022. Currently, Zoom was testing automatic subtitles. However, initially they applied it directly to paid accounts. Thanks to a petition, Zoom agreed to be available on free accounts. It took about eight months for that to happen.
Around June, Microsoft's Teams' iOS app allowed people who hadn't used the Teams network with free subtitles. That is a good place to start. Video platforms need more than subtitles to be accessible, however. They must be navigated without a mouse. In addition to subtitles, all platforms are required to offer transcripts. It is the transcripts, not the subtitles, that are compatible with screen readers and Braille refresh devices.
So here are the top results from Alexa's top 100 website test:
- Of the websites tested, 62% were accessible to screen readers, up from 40% in 2022.
- All pages have been passed for the valid document "lang".
- Only 11% of websites tested with errors were in inbound leaflets.
- The most common mistake was the use of ARIA.
- The second most common mistake was color difference.
In a short time, a screen reader test of the major Alexa websites showed much improvement over the 2022 and 2022 test.
What about mobile apps? One study found that out of four hours on the mobile internet, 88% of respondents said they spend that time on mobile apps. With this high usage of apps and the accessibility community’s interest in app accessibility, SOAR tested mobile apps for the first time. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 set 10 success criteria related to accessibility for mobile devices.
The mobile analytics looks at the top 20 free apps for both iOS and Android as well as the top 20 paid apps for both operating systems. The biggest surprise is that free apps were far more accessible than the paid apps.
When testing the accessibility of the key features in the free apps, 80% of the iOS apps and 65% of Android passed. In terms of accessibility of the main features of the paid apps, only 10% of the main features of iOS and 40% of Android apps passed.
Why the difference? Free apps have far more users than paid apps as Statista shows that over 93% use free apps for both Android and iOS devices. The more users a product produces, the more likely the users want and provide feedback on accessibility. Also, many of the companies behind the free apps are the big tech companies that have prioritized accessibility.
Where do we get from here?
It's encouraging to see progress in digital reach, but companies need to stay on track. One of the most effective ways to do this is to use a top-down buy-in approach to accessibility. Make it part of the culture.
Now, building an access-first culture doesn’t happen overnight or even in a few months. It will take time. Progress is every small step. The key is to take that first step no matter how small. It could be as simple as teaching everyone in the company about adding text to images. Or maybe on how to use proper heads.
It takes a lot of practice to become a muscle memory. As soon as you defeat one thing, you move on to the next. According to SOAR 2022, many companies are mastering text and other headers. But they struggle with color contrast and ARIA. Maybe that’s the next step.
Creating accessible products needs to involve people with disabilities throughout the process. Yes, before you build the lowest workable product. Better yet, hire people with disabilities so you always have experts.
Many of the gaps in accessibility are due to a lack of education and training. Companies need to train everyone, not just the product development team. The development team can create an accessible website, but all that hard work is weakened the moment someone is from posting untitled video, a graphic designer creates an image with a bad contrast or the reseller publishes an inaccessible PDF file.
Access is dependent on everyone.