AudioEye Is Not Just An Automation Company
A fresh take on one of the most innovative companies transforming digital inclusion and accessibility.
Accessibility shouldn’t be an add-on or paid feature, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. Within the disability community, one is likely to hear of the expression ‘Disability Tax’ — the increased living expense associated with having a disability, along with the time and emotional investment necessary to advocate for oneself in spaces and situations that are not accessible.
Let’s explore the cost of accessibility in the workplace as a person with a hearing disability whose preferred accessibility accommodation is human-edited captioning provided by stenographers via a service known as Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART).
CART captioners provide captioning services that translate the spoken word into text and the service costs around $150 per hour with a two-hour minimum. The average employee spends around 21.5 hours in meetings every week. There are approximately 50 work weeks in a year and human-edited captions from CART would cost $3,225 per week —or $161,250 per year for someone with a hearing disability, like me, to make their meetings accessible.
We rarely talk about the cost of disability for people with disabilities and this is part of the stigma that prevents so many professionals with disabilities from disclosing. I did not feel comfortable making this accessibility work request from my employer during the pandemic until I learned that Zoom charged a more reasonable $200 monthly fee —or $2,400 per year— which would provide automatically-generated captioning with close to 95% accuracy. It took Covid-19, a Change.org Campaign that garnered over 80K signatures led by disability advocates like Shari Eberts, a federal lawsuit brought on by two deaf men, Russell Kane and Christopher Myers against Zoom, and two-and-a-half years, for automatic captioning functionality to be available to all users without a paywall on just this single platform.
Building Full Accessibility At Scale
When WebAIM did its most recent Million Report to study the top one million homepages this year, they discovered only 3% of the internet is accessible! Manually testing a website for accessibility for a simple e-commerce website can easily start at $25,000. This does not include the follow-up remediation to fix the website nor the fact that a manual-only approach often ignores the need for continuous and dynamic testing as a result of the internet being ever-evolving.
The answer to this systemic problem is leveraging the speed of automation and the completeness of manual testing and remediation and discouraging any approach that exclusively focuses on only one of these. AudioEye is the only organization in the market that offers a full solution to web accessibility. The automated platform provided by AudioEye with the most basic digital accessibility compliance standards is currently $49 a month, totaling $588 a year — AudioEye even offers a discounted rate under the annual plan at $490. This platform will detect up to 70% of common web accessibility issues, such as low-contrast text, empty links, and missing alt text for images — fixing about two-thirds of these errors, the highest error detection rate in the industry! And for those issues that automation can't yet resolve, AudioEye provides the tools to take a website owner right to the issue so they can resolve it on their own. This translates to hours and thousands of dollars saved to build accessibility at scale.
The Challenge of Innovative Technologies and Automation
“Shelter in place” and “social distancing” during the Covid-19 pandemic transformed how we live. In a matter of days, our world became smaller and more connected than ever as we started to attend weddings, go to concerts, and schedule doctor visits from the comfort of our phones and computer! As more people entered these digital spaces, the need for inclusion and accessible design increased. Unfortunately, many individuals and businesses came to learn of accessibility when they were called out by the community on social media, or worse, through legal action in the form of a demand letter—a precursor lawyers send to give individuals or businesses a chance to act before a lawsuit is filed. Indeed, the last few years have seen record numbers of federal lawsuits filed under the ADA Title III, and this number increases even more when you consider digital accessibility lawsuits at the state level. These alarming numbers highlight an unmet need for digital accessibility at scale and a need for a holistic approach to solving this problem.
The Future of the Internet
Compliance standards are ambiguous as the Department of Justice has not yet issued accessibility regulations on websites under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The government nor policy has not caught up to the tech industry 32 years later. During this time, AudioEye has been a pioneer in the web accessibility industry, continuously innovating a model that builds on the insight of experts and enables them to be more efficient. These experts include the AudioEye A11iance Community, a key component of the AudioEye accessibility service model, where people with disabilities lead efforts to test and fix accessibility issues to help AudioEye’s clients meet the highest accessibility standards. You would think this is a standard feature in most web accessibility organizations but it isn’t. What’s worse, as you will learn from accessibility testers, many organizations don’t pay people with disabilities for web testing and auditing, expecting them to do it as volunteer work! In fact, the concept of hiring people with disabilities for web testing is so novel that the first program to train people with vision disabilities as digital accessibility testers launched last month in North Carolina!
AudioEye’s team of experts also includes people like Tony Coelho —a former Congressman and original sponsor of the ADA who sits on the AudioEye board. To a greater extent, the company is not just committed to receiving the guidance of organizations like the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) — leaders in the space of web accessibility, AudioEye’s experts are active members and contributors to these organizations!
I joined AudioEye because the team embodies what it means to take action to build an accessible internet with people with disabilities in mind. If you look through the last 17 years of AudioEye history you will learn that AudioEye was created in 2005 because one of the co-founders — called the Bradley brothers, developed a degenerative disease in his right eye. Its success is a stubborn commitment to eradicating every barrier to digital access for people with disabilities and a methodology flexible enough to adapt and incorporate emerging technology. As AudioEye’s Advocacy & Social Media Manager, I’ll be working with the team to showcase the things that excite me about this company and tell the story of what it means to be an active participant in building the future of the internet with and for people with disabilities.
Being a person with a disability who has spent the past decade working at the intersection of social impact and technology, this is my most exciting role yet. Stay tuned as I share that journey on the AudioEye Blog!
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