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How the Digital Accessibility Landscape is Changing

These are some of the important accessibility trends that we have seen in recent years, and there will many more changes once WCAG 2.2 and WCAG 3.0 guidelines are out.

Ankush Garg, Low Vision Accessibility Expert

How the Digital Accessibility Landscape is Changing

In this era of digital transformation there are many developments and changes around accessibility, and so it becomes important to align ourselves with the latest advancements in this field of quality engineering. So, let’s have a closer look at some of the global accessibility trends that the world has been going through recently.

The state of web accessibility is slowly improving

Research stats of WebAim’s Million survey and Diamond’s SOAR – State of Accessibility Report has shown some improvements in digital accessibility efforts during past couple of years.

According to WebAim’s survey, in 2020, 98.1% homepages of top 1 million websites were having WCAG 2.0 violations, whereas in 2021, this number came down to 97.4%, which means there is a slight improvement, though the rate of improvement is very slow.

On the other hand, according to Diamond’s state of accessibility report, in 2020, 40% of top 100 Alexa websites were accessible to screen readers. This number has moved up to 62% in 2021. Here, the SOAR report has a very small sample size in comparison to Webaim’s report, which is why it shows some significant improvement in numbers.

Mobile accessibility is more important than ever before

In the past decade, the number of smartphone users has been growing at a staggering rate. As a result, traffic to websites on mobile devices has already surpassed desktop web traffic. In fact, last year the mobile website traffic share was reported to be 53.9%, which is the all-time highest number worldwide. If we specifically talk about the disability community, growth is very similar.

According to a recent WebAim’s survey, 51.8% of visually impaired respondents indicated that they use a mobile app for common online activities, whereas 48.2% of respondents preferred to use a desktop website for their online activity. The preference for mobile app usage increased to 51.8% in 2021, up from 50.8% in 2019 and 46% in 2017.

This consistent increase in mobile app usage clearly shows us that mobile accessibility is more important than ever before, and it is time for all of us to really put an emphasis on mobile accessibility.

Digital platforms leveraging AI for accessibility

In the past couple of years, we have seen many social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn rolling out automatic alt-text features to facilitate visually impaired users.

Similarly, some popular video conferencing platforms such as zoom, Teams, Skype, and Meet have also launched live captioning features to make video streaming and conferencing more accessible for people with a hearing impairment.

These automatic alt-text and live captioning features mostly rely on image recognition and speech recognition technology, which is empowered by machine learning algorithms. Since this AI-driven technology is not 100% perfect, some of these platforms, like Zoom and Instagram, also allow editing and customizing these auto-generated captions to provide better user experience.

Digital accessibility lawsuits continue to proliferate

According to Usable Net’s report, in 2018 nearly 2,300 ADA accessibility lawsuits were filed in the United States, and this number has already crossed 4,000 in 2021. If this rate continues, we can easily expect more than 5,000 accessibility lawsuits in 2022.

One of the major reasons for this hike is the digital transformation we have experienced during the pandemic. Many businesses have gone online, and we have become more dependent on digital applications for our day-to-day activities, be it education, shopping, banking, meetings or presentations. Since most of these applications were not designed with accessibility in mind, there is a significant increase in the number of ADA lawsuits.

There are many big names in various industries, such as Dominos, McDonalds, eBay, Netflix, and Hooters who have faced ADA lawsuits, and the Hooters case in particular has shown us that any site owner can be sued a number of times until all of its public facing pages are accessible to people with disabilities.

These are some of the important accessibility trends that we have seen in recent years, and there will many more changes once WCAG 2.2 and WCAG 3.0 guidelines are out. They demonstrate the importance of accessibility in everyday life for millions of people and how essential it is to ensure that your services, products, apps and websites are all aligned with the latest accessibility requirements as well as technological developments. Making sure all your customers can have a positive user experience (not to mention avoiding legal issues) is a must for any brand and cannot be overlooked.

 

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