Why Experts + Automation Is a Winning Formula for Accessibility
Learn about the pros and cons of different approaches to digital accessibility — and why AudioEye's combination of Expert Audits and powerful automation has resulted in the accessibility industry's lowest rate of valid legal claims.
When it comes to digital accessibility, there are a few different approaches.
On one side, you have automated accessibility solutions that promise to make digital accessibility simple, streamlined, and easy.
On the other side, you have digital accessibility consultants who claim automated solutions make things worse — and that manual audits are the only way to make websites accessible and compliant.
Like most things in life, we think the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
There are clear benefits to each approach. But they also have limitations that make them an incomplete solution — and can lead to customer websites that aren’t truly accessible or compliant.
In this post, we’ll examine the pros and cons of each approach — and explain how blending the two can help you deliver an accessible browsing experience to every website visitor.
The pros and cons of automated solutions and manual audits
If you talk to any digital accessibility vendor, it’s no surprise that they’re going to highlight the strongest areas of their product or service:
- Automation-only solutions will tout their ability to quickly and efficiently improve your site’s accessibility, without burdening your internal teams or resources.
- Accessibility consultants will highlight the precision of their manual audits — and how human experts are the only way to uncover many of the WCAG violations that lead to legal claims.
With so much focus on what each approach does differently and better, it begs the question: Why not take the best of each to deliver a more comprehensive approach to accessibility?
There’s clear value in the speed, convenience, and scalability of automation. However, automation alone cannot identify or remediate every accessibility issue — which can leave websites non-conformant with accessibility standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
The ability to uncover additional accessibility issues — especially those related to usability (i.e., using assistive technology to browse websites) and subjective content (i.e., the accuracy of image alt text descriptions) — is a key differentiator for manual audits compared to simple, rules-based automation.
Unfortunately, manual audits are ill-equipped to keep pace with the sheer size and changing nature of most websites. Each website update is a chance to accidentally introduce new accessibility issues. If you’re only auditing your website 1-2 times per year, it’s easy for accessibility issues to slip through the cracks.
Worse, many of these consultancies simply leave customers with a long list of issues to fix themselves — which can put tremendous strain on internal teams that might not be trained in the best practices of digital accessibility.
Combining people and automation can reduce your risk of receiving a valid legal claim.
Earlier this year, we analyzed over 900 legal claims in the accessibility industry to determine how many of them were valid — meaning the accessibility issues cited in the lawsuit could be reproduced and violated one of the WCAG 2.1 Level AA criteria, the accessibility standard used in most legal rulings.
After reviewing the lawsuits, we found that the highest percentage of valid claims (68%) was against organizations with no accessibility solution.
By comparison, 56% of lawsuits against organizations working with an accessibility vendor were deemed valid — a 21% improvement over organizations with no solution.
At AudioEye, our automated solution can detect about 70% of accessibility issues — and automatically fix about two-thirds of them. For the remaining issues, we rely on human experts (including members of the disability community) to identify complex accessibility barriers and suggest fixes that improve the user experience for people with disabilities.
That approach has helped us deliver the lowest rate of valid claims in the industry. In the first half of 2023, just 19% of claims against AudioEye customers leveraging automation and manual testing were valid — a 67% improvement over the industry average.
What are the other benefits of a combined approach to digital accessibility?
Combining expert audits with powerful automation doesn’t just help you test for more WCAG criteria; it also creates a symbiotic environment where human experts drive smarter automation.
And because we have our human experts focus on your highest-trafficked pages and page templates, these custom remediations are able to resolve more of the accessibility issues that would otherwise impact your website visitors — without having to rebuild large sections of your site.
Want to be truly accessible and compliant? It takes experts plus automation.
We’re excited that more organizations are looking into the accessibility of their digital experiences. But there’s still work to be done. And it starts with transparency.
Accessibility vendors need to be honest about the limitations of their solutions — and avoid falling into the trap of promising a silver bullet.
Automation alone cannot deliver fully accessible digital experiences, just like a manual audit every few months cannot hope to stay ahead of every accessibility issue. It takes a combination of the two — and steady input from members of the disability community — to build a more accessible digital future.
Want to see how your website stacks up today? Start with an automated scan of your site, then request an Expert Audit to uncover additional accessibility issues getting between you and your customers.
Ready to test your website for accessibility?