Human beings spend an increasing amount of time online for a wide range of reasons. It all happens in the digital universe, from streaming shows to online bill pay and eCommerce purchases. However, this technological pervasiveness creates significant obstacles for more than one billion people with disabilities.¹ Fortunately, many types of assistive technology (AT) simplify their challenges. 

The more deeply embedded technology becomes in our daily lives, the more challenging it is for people with disabilities to manage digital content. Amazingly, people with disabilities comprise the largest minority group in the world.¹ The time to accommodate their needs is long overdue, and this blog examines some proven ways to accomplish that.

What is Assistive Technology?

AT enables people with disabilities to execute daily tasks the rest of us take for granted. In the context of this blog, it refers to any gadget, apparatus, or software that expands, sustains, or enhances their ability to engage with the digital world. 

The Four Main Categories of User Accessibility Needs:

1. Visual: those who are blind, color blind, and have low vision 

2. Auditory: the deaf and hearing impaired 

3. Motor: those with restricted fine motor function, slow-acting muscles, or trembling and twitches

4. Cognitive: those who have learning and memory disabilities, attention impairments, or difficulty resolving problems

6 Examples of Assistive Technology: 

1. Screen readers software

Changes website text to audio or braille. It’s one of the common assistive technologies for visually impaired people and those with auditory impairments.

2. Screen magnifiers software

Assistive technology for low vision that magnifies digital screen content.

3. Content tools

Modify text sizes, the space between text lines, and colors on websites.

 4. Voice recognition software

Speech to text assistive technology that converts a user’s speech into digital text.

5. Writing and reading assistants

Software that provides assistive technology for  dyslexia, dysgraphia, or for reading and writing.

6. Cursor-enlarging tools

Significantly expand the standard cursor so the pointer is always visible to people with eye impairments. They also simplify and expedite overall website navigation. 

Even with the advent and availability of these tools, most companies have yet to integrate them into their websites. And raising awareness is perhaps the best way to increase the use of AT. The following section does a deeper dive into the lack of accessibility worldwide. 

Digital Accessibility is Woefully Behind the Times

Did you know that only 3% of the Internet digitally accommodates people with disabilities?² It’s a hard statistic to fathom, considering the rapid progression of global technology. But, even more striking, most websites don’t meet the most common WCAG requirements. Case in point: countless company websites don’t provide their users with alternative text (alt text).

HTML 2 and alt text were released together in 1995.³ Web connections were glacially slow back then, and alt text described images that hadn’t loaded on pages yet. Nearly 30 years later, many website owners still don’t offer this basic functionality.

How Websites Worldwide Fall Short on Accessible Technology

  • 97.4% of the most recognized websites don’t provide complete accessibility⁴
  • 86.4% of home pages have text contrast that’s too low for WCAG 2 AA standards⁴
  • There’s no alternative text for 26% of homepage images⁴
  • 60% of those who need screen readers think content accessibility is declining⁴
  • Only 21.4% of web accessibility initiatives have a consolidated budget⁴
  • Over 20% of accessibility plans don’t have a budget⁴

Compelling Statistics On Users with Disabilities:

  • 61 million adults in the U.S. live with a disability⁴
  • 62% of adults with a disability own a laptop or desktop computer⁴
  • 59.6% of people with disabilities live in a household with internet access⁴
  • 72% of adults with disabilities possess a smartphone⁴

With all this said, it’s important to note that it takes more than assistive technology to achieve digital accessibility. You still need website coding and content that works seamlessly with assistive devices. It would help if you also had a corporate plan that everyone in your organization could get behind. However, the answers to common questions below can get you started on the right path.  

Answers to Common FAQs

How do I prepare for Incorporating Assistive Technology Services?

Start by using all resources at your disposal to meet WCAG compliance. American lawyers, web admins, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) increasingly rely on the WCAG, particularly concerning ADA compliance. Meeting these standards will make your site more digitally accessible, prevent unnecessary lawsuits, and help boost your eCommerce sales.

What Are the Four Primary WCAG Content Guidelines? 

  1. Perceivable: Your information must be evident to at least one of them and not invisible to any of them.
  2. Operable: Users need to have the ability to navigate your website interface.
  3. Understandable: Users must be able to comprehend your website content.
  4. Robust: You must provide content in numerous ways for various kinds of users.

How Do I Formulate a Digital Accessibility Plan?

AT is here to stay. According to WHO, approximately 2 billion people will use it by 2030. To that end, a digital accessibility plan is both a legal and moral imperative in today’s world. 

Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Keep abreast of WCAG accessibility standards
  • Garner collective support from all staff members
  • Provide the latest technology tools to appropriate personnel  
  • Partner with a reputable third-party provider 
  • Lean on disability expertise and organizations 
  • Plan ahead for accessibility 
  • Embed accessibility in your organization 

Learn How UserWay Can Help with Assistive Technology

The Internet should be an equitable environment for everyone, including people with disabilities. That’s why UserWay’s AI technology offers numerous assistive technology tools to help you reach digital accessibility and meet the required compliance guidelines. Find out more today.  

 

SOURCES:

¹ Humanity and Inclusion

² The WebAIM Million 

³ What is the Image Alt Tag (in 2021)

DIY Web Accessibility Statistics