Digital accessibility is the next competitive frontier
- Digital accessibility — i.e. making digital content and products more accessible for individuals with disabilities (e.g. vision, hearing, speech, cognitive) — has been in the headlines of late as tech firms vie to announce new accessibility features.
- Only 2–3% of websites are considered accessible. A Feb 2021 report found that 97.4% of the top 1M web sites had detectable accessibility failures. This has facilitated a marked increase in digital accessibility lawsuits — there were 3,550 in the US in 2020 (up 23% over 2019). In contrast, there were just 262 cases in 2016.
- “Accessibility overlays” have garnered attention as a quick fix to get businesses into compliance fast or respond to a lawsuit. They promise the ability to insert a line of 3rd-party code into a website to identify and remediate issues in as little as 24 hours. Lately, however, they are being accused of making it harder for people with disabilities to access websites.
- The investments by big tech and social media firms are not just about making their platforms, products, and devices more accessible. They’re recognizing that accessibility isn’t necessarily about serving a niche segment — it can improve the product for everyone.
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