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AudioEye: Not Just Another Overlay


Posted January 31, 2017

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Oftentimes, one company’s messaging can translate to a number of other industries, and I have to tell you that seeing those really clever LifeLock television commercials recently draws parallels to the current landscape of digital accessibility. You may know the commercials I am talking about, they go something like:

See, in the world of digital accessibility, providers, traditionally, seem to offer two types of approaches (technology only and manual only), neither of which provides a fully-baked, meaningful solution, but, rather, just a path to a solution. Don’t get me wrong, identifying a path to a solution is a great (and important) step in the right direction, but it’s not an actual solution, which is what, I find, most businesses and organizations are looking for when they select their partners and vendors. I can tell you that the majority of companies and organizations I speak to are no more interested in or prepared to address, making their content accessible as much as I am interested in, or prepared, to fill my own cavities.

Manual testing and automated testing technology can effectively evaluate and monitor web environments and applications to tell you when and where you have an accessibility issue. This is a valuable offering, but then what? Many organizations are ill-equipped to address the multitude of issues that come to light as a result of testing. Some (if not most) even outsource design and development to 3rd party providers that they cannot control. At AudioEye, we have studied the landscape and have found that most content publishers, as well as end-users, just want the issue solved in the most efficient manner possible.

Some in the space will tell you that a traditional overlay or “layered” or “bolt-on” approach will not work. Though the foundation of the AudioEye approach lies in the utilization of an overlay, I would agree with this conclusion. An overlay, simply applied to a site, with no additional intervention, is not a long-term solution to achieving accessibility. On this point, we can all agree. Without manual intervention, there is no “magic bullet” and AudioEye does not profess to be one. Simply applying an overlay solution, alone, cannot fully address the many nuances of WCAG 2.0 to automatically make a website conform to those standards. As with most effective solutions, the valid solution lies somewhere in the middle.

First, let’s be careful to define “overlay” in the context of digital accessibility. Typically, an overlay is usually characterized as one of two things. It is either a remediation technology that serves fixes to the browser through the implementation of a JavaScript. Alternatively, it may be in reference to a toolset that provides end-users with additional accessibility options that emulate one or more assistive technologies that are traditionally provided through a software solution requiring the user to pay and/or download in order to gain access and operate.

As described in greater detail, below, AudioEye presents businesses and organizations with what might be defined as “overlay 2.0”. The AudioEye “overlay” serves as, both, a JavaScript remediation solution as well as a cloud-based toolset providing the most robust set of personalization and enhancement tools available. Website fixes are served automatically, while other fixes are manually configured by AudioEye Engineers to address issues specific to each individual domain. The free tools that are also provided with the solution address several disability-related use cases (user needs) and emulate several disparate software solutions that can be very costly for end-users. In addition, by implementing the AudioEye JavaScript, the solution is able to serve as a robust (and the most advanced) monitoring solution, seeding the AudioEye System, namely, the AudioEye Digital Accessibility Platform, with information that allows businesses and organizations to track their accessibility status and to be alerted to new issues as they creep up (should they not be addressed prior to reaching production environments – which is something else we help our customers with via our Digital Accessibility Platform).

At AudioEye, we have developed a process that leverages the efficiencies and effectiveness of, both, an automated and manual approach to accessibility; all while eliminating the need for an organization to have their development teams reprogram or remediate the vast majority of their code base. Our solution is a two-step approach; first we deploy our powerful overlay solution that instantly addresses many common and known issues of accessibility. In addition to this, our manual intervention relies on our team of accessibility experts to customize your specific overlay to assure full conformance with WCAG 2.0 AA Success Criteria. A technology-only approach misses too much and a manual-only process is too long, expensive, and cumbersome. An effective blend of the two approaches truly delivers what everyone is looking for… a solution, not just a monitor.

The power of the AudioEye solution does far more than simply addressing WCAG or accessibility issues. Additionally (and optionally), it can provide powerful and easy-to-use personalization and usability tools that provide assistance to a considerably larger user base. Configuring your website to conform with WCAG 2.0 is vital for end users who rely on assistive technologies to interact with the digital world. However, there exists a larger demographic of users who may benefit from similar assistive utilities, such as those provided via the AudioEye overlay solution. These tools empower a much wider number of users, including aging populations and individuals who have vision, hearing, intellectual or cognitive disabilities, those who are color blind, dyslexic, are learning to read, learning a second language, or may prefer listening instead of reading. These tools go far beyond vision and cognitive needs and can provide assistance for individuals with mobility impairments, leveraging state of the art voice command technology, where a user can easily navigate and transact with a site using their voice, eliminating the need for the use of a keyboard or a mouse. Recognizing this opportunity, AudioEye provides a layer of usability to its accessibility solution through the provisioning of the AudioEye Ally Toolbar.

Accessibility is our foundation, usability is our structure. Historical data tells us that 57% of computer users are likely or very likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology due to a mild or severe impairment and that approximately 32% of people using accessibility options or assistive technology do so for ease of use, comfort and convenience. We, at AudioEye, see massive opportunity to package accessibility and usability together to maximize the impact of the effort and investment in accessibility. No one else can deliver these two powerful approaches in one solution set.

Many of the traditionalists in the accessibility space have been highly critical of the use of an overlay to deliver accessibility. Based on the limited and narrow application of this approach in the past, they may be right. However, at AudioEye we have developed an advanced “overlay 2.0” solution that blends the efficiencies of technology and the assuredness of manual intervention with the power of cloud-deployed usability tools to deliver an enhanced user experience to a much wider audience.

When you are told that an overlay cannot effectively address issues of accessibility in a website, you should know that, in most cases, that is probably accurate; however, an overlay 2.0 approach not only delivers an effective, efficient, and economical solution for accessibility, it goes way beyond the traditional approach by providing greater access and usability to audiences not traditionally included in the conversation. At AudioEye, we are not just an accessibility monitor, we are an accessibility solution provider. There is a powerful difference.

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