When you think about accessibility, artificial intelligence (AI) may not be the first thought on your mind.
One of the last “big” hurdles that most websites have to overcome to reach the world of full accessibility is ensuring that it has clear and ready features for people with disabilities. Everything else seems to have been already covered.
The hurdles of accessibility in various aspects, along with optimization features, have already been cleared. And most of these successes are from AI as well.
Some of these successes are:
- Better, faster, and more easily loaded websites already use the latest programming languages to make everything more precise, safer, and more efficient.
- Can’t keep up with the number of customers asking the same questions? A conversational AI chatbot can handle many customer queries while providing the human chat agent only for the more complicated things that a bot can’t take.
- Don’t have enough staff to act as salespeople, or your staff is made of nonverbal people? Sophisticated chatbots often have AI that enables them to “talk” to customers. They can even automate the process for you, checking customers’ purchase histories and making suggestions as needed. It can learn as they talk to the customers.
- Handling work remotely because of the pandemic but still need to talk to customers and handle website maintenance and orders? It’s easy to stay productive with remote management tools now.
- Need to know who your customers are, where they’re coming from, or just trying to find out who the people who most often come to your business website are? A DNS lookup can already do that for you. It helps you figure out where they are from geographically, so you know where your market is.
- Automation has even made it possible to connect applications, giving you the power to create a “mission control” for your corporation right in one spot.
- Sometimes, AI can even be used to augment the world around us. AR (you may remember it from some pretty popular mobile games as of late) or Augmented Reality is now a great growth hacking tool that allows customers to see and do more. Say a customer is unable to put on the clothes they want to try on. AR can “virtually” put a dress or a jacket on them to see how it looks before buying.
In a way, AI and numerous other software have already made websites so much better, faster, safer, and efficient. AI keeps on advancing, improving with each day. Mega CEOs like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are already in the race to program even better ones.
But a vast majority of the benefits from the usage of AI and automation apply mostly to people who are non-disabled and are neurotypical.
Regular internet users can see, hear, and navigate the online world without challenges. But what about people with disabilities? Or even just senior citizens who may be trying to learn how to browse your shop but have a hard time doing so?
You might have good marketing, useful content, a fast website, brilliant graphics, all the features, and more—but a world of accessibility for a business looking to build trust in its user base means catering to everyone. That is where artificial intelligence comes in, transforming the user experience not just for the typical web user but also for those who need a little extra accommodation.
Wielding the power of AI for accessibility
Consider some of the most common issues surrounding website accessibility. People who can see, hear, speak, and type normally wouldn’t often consider what it must be like to access a website without one of your primary senses.
By identifying some key pain points and issues about accessibility, you can begin to look for ways to fix them and make the web more accessible for everyone.
1. Low contrast text
“Web design is my passion,” as the typical online adage says. And we’ve seen plenty of web designs out there that showcase a variety of styles, templates, fonts, colors, and more.
But it is critical to consider that people who have poor visual acuity may not discern the text if there isn’t enough contrast between them. This is especially common for older adults who would have less visual acuity as time goes by.
2. Non-distinct links
It is a stylistic choice for some websites to “blend” the links into the text or not to indicate where the links are. They are just part of the design.
But it may be difficult for atypical people or people with disabilities to figure out if there is something there that they should be clicking. Worse, they may click on something and end up making a mistake as it’s not the direction they want to go.
3. Big blocks of texts
Websites with products or news-like information often have plenty of paragraphs to read through. And lots of text content can be very tedious to listen to through automated screen readers and text-to-speech interpreters.
Even if someone had an AI specifically programmed to tell them what they were reading, it could get pretty tedious if they only want to know a particular thing. And no one trying to buy something would sit and listen for so much for so long.
4. Tab-through order
This doesn’t come to mind all that often when considering accessibility in a website. For some disabled users, they navigate the site’s different “tabs” through a keyboard.
If the site’s tab-through order is not keyboard-navigation friendly, it will become incredibly confusing or challenging to get to the pages they want to see.
Building a better AI
So, what does it take to create accessibility through AI? Consider some building blocks that could make up the functionality of an AI and address accessibility issues previously mentioned:
1. Automated screen to text translation
An AI that handles text-to-speech can easily read the low-contrast text aloud for these people, allowing them to comprehend what is on the page.
Furthermore, it is just good web design practice to provide high-contrast text on the page. It is easy to read on both PC and mobile, and people will find it easier on the eyes.
It also works for links as this can analyze the text they are reading aloud and, through automation, determine if it is a link and lets the user know. This way, they are aware of what they are clicking.
2. AI Machine learning and text summarization
The AI should also be able to perform automated text summarization. Through artificial intelligence, the machine will take the block of text’s content and then summarize it in short order, allowing the user to discern what it’s all about immediately, instead of waiting to be read the entire thing.
Of course, this would require the AI to undergo machine learning to fully understand the nuances and context within the text it is summarizing. This way, nothing is left out.
3. Face and gesture recognition
Automated facial and gesture recognition can follow the facial reactions and gestures of the user. It is already been witnessed in some phones—the screen can scroll by following the way the users’ eyes move.
Furthermore, facial recognition software can enable users with disabilities to log in without moving their limbs or type out a password and remaining secure. This is also a feature you may have already noticed in smartphones.
Is it possible? AI already at work
You might wonder: is all this even possible? The fact is that there are already AI that can do all this and more.
1. Marie-Kondo the website: Website accessibility AI
Take the AI accessiBe, which helps impaired users simplify a website and make things more easily manageable.
The AI ensures disabling animation and distracting blinking. It optimizes the navigation tabs for keyboard use, adjusts fonts and colors to make them more readable, and more.
With everything more straightforward and more focused, people with disabilities can navigate the site much more quickly.
2. All done with a smile: Facial and gesture recognition AI
As mentioned before, this is tech that is already here and commercially in action.
Facial recognition now stretches to PCs as numerous photos of a person’s face can be analyzed and used by an AI to work with them. They can set up their computers by only having to smile or use a fingerprint. It can read lips, follow the way their eyes move, and respond accordingly.
3. You can say that again: Automated text summarization and real-time translation
Algorithms were developed to summarize vast blocks of texts into shorter abstracts. Salesforce can already do this! This works quite well for people with memory issues, ADHD, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities.
Still not able to understand? AI also provides real-time translations now. Google Translate has far and away become the translator of choice after millions of users worldwide started using it, contributing to its machine learning and helping it better understand the thousands of cultures’ nuances.
It truly helps people every day but is incredibly valuable for disabled users who don’t have English as a primary language.
Follow the leaders: Trailblazing companies already using AI for accessibility
Here are some of the trailblazers in the name of AI:
AccessiBe is one company that practices what it preaches. They created the AI accessiBe and are putting it to use on their website as well.
The company makes sure to adhere to every specific country’s accessibility laws, and they also make use of AI automation tools to make their work better, faster, and more optimized.
They even use the accessibility it gives them for improved customer experience and brand enhancement. The more issues they find, the more they can solve, and they continue to make things better for their customers.
The AI for Accessibility was announced back in 2018, but Microsoft will keep it going for the next five years, putting in a $25 million budget.
They are motivating smaller companies to develop accessibility Ais such as InnerVoice, which uses avatars. Through text and imagery, learners can make better speech and language connections.
But Microsoft has its tools too: with the help of the Rochester Institute of Technology. They refined Microsoft Translator, which could transcribe classroom lectures in real-time. It’s a tremendous boon to students.
AI for accessibility works well for the financial sectors as well, not just IT. Using AI for underwriting, they can study thousands of different data points and provide unheard-of transparency levels.
They can more accurately and fairly assess borrowers, especially ones that have the most minimal credit histories. As a result, they cut losses by up to 23 percent annually.
Using AI for better accessibility only serves to benefit everyone. The company can vastly improve its efficiency and optimization, and all users can access its website. There is more trust, more understanding, more profits, and most of all, more communication for all.
It is the sort of marketing strategy that creates a genuinely inclusive online community that doesn’t just accommodate but also supports and makes everything prolific.
Has your company started using AI to improve accessibility? In what ways? Let us know by shooting us a message on social media.
Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of IdeasPlusBusiness.com.
Any content provided by our bloggers or authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.
For questions and inquiries on the blog, please send an email to the Editor at ideasplusbusiness[at]gmail[dot]com. You can also follow IdeasPlusBusiness.com on Twitter here and like our page on Facebook here.
This website contains affiliate links to some products and services. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you.
Aaron Chichioco is the chief content officer (CCO) and one of the web designers of Design Doxa. Aside from his expertise in web/mobile design and development, he also has years of experience in digital marketing, branding, customer service, eCommerce, and business management as well. For more information about Aaron, visit http://designdoxa.com/about-us/