Why People + Automation Is the Right Approach to Accessibility Testing
See why Goldilocks’ approach to eating porridge — not too hot, not too cold — is just right for digital accessibility testing.
Ever heard the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?
In it, we learn that porridge is a dish best served lukewarm. Not too hot, not too cold.
It's an analogy that can be applied to almost any scenario, from labor markets to digital accessibility testing. Sometimes the perfect solution — whether it’s the temperature of porridge or the best way to use technology — lies in the middle of two extremes. Not too hot, not too cold.
For businesses looking to make their website accessible to all users, there are two primary approaches:
- Simple, automation-only tools that can identify and resolve some accessibility issues.
- Agencies that offer manual audits and remediation.
Both can be useful, but neither is able to deliver ongoing accessibility. In this post, we explain why — and make an argument for why a hybrid model that blends the best of automation and human expertise is the best approach.
Automation Is an Important First Step
The argument for automation is pretty simple. It’s fast, it’s relatively hands-free, and it’s able to keep up with the speed of content creation and the dynamic nature of the internet.
There are nearly 2 billion websites on the internet, with new sites going live every second and millions of blog posts, videos, and images added every day.
In our white paper on Building for Digital Accessibility at Scale, we estimated the number of hours required to make the internet accessible — without the help of automation:
Using these estimates, it would take 167 billion hours for a person to fix every site on the internet, or 80.3 million implementers working for an entire year.
Of course, that number doesn’t account for the 22 million hours needed each day to fix newly created websites. Or the fact that websites are constantly updated — and each change is an opportunity to introduce new accessibility issues.
In other words, digital accessibility won’t be solved without the help of automation. But that doesn’t mean that automation alone is the answer.
But It Isn’t Ready To Stand on Its Own
When we audited more than 1,000 websites using our own automation solution, it was able to detect up to 70% of common accessibility issues — and automatically fix about two-thirds of them. That rate is higher than any other automation solution on the market, but it also clarifies the need for people to be involved.
Certain types of content — such as video, audio, and PDF — cannot be fixed with automation. And some accessibility issues are too subjective for automation to resolve. For example, automated solutions can’t tell if an image’s alt text is accurate or descriptive; all it can do is register that some alt text is there.
Is a Manual Audit Enough for My Website?
We can probably all agree that there’s no realistic way for people alone to make the internet accessible. (At least without spending trillions of dollars). But that doesn’t mean a manual audit won’t be enough for your website, right?
Not if you want your site to be accessible today, tomorrow, and into the future.
Even for individual websites, manual audits are too slow, static, and expensive to be a viable solution.
Think of it this way: How many times have you updated your website in the last year? Every time you update a product page or add a new blog post, you run the risk of (unintentionally) introducing an accessibility issue.
Manual audits provide a nice snapshot in time of your website’s accessibility, but they aren’t an ongoing accessibility solution. By the time you're done with the audit, you need a new one — and each one can cost thousands of dollars and leave you with the task of fixing errors.
When we conducted manual audits on 55 randomly selected websites that used traditional manual audit and remediation services, we found significant accessibility issues, such as non-functional site navigation, unlabeled graphics, and inaccessible video controls. In total, we found hundreds of issues that had either been missed or not fixed at the source code.
Making the Case for a Hybrid Approach to Accessibility
At AudioEye, we believe that everyone, regardless of ability, should have equal access to the internet. We also believe that our approach to accessibility — which pairs automation with human expertise — is the most effective way to deliver ongoing accessibility.
Automation should be the backbone of your accessibility strategy. Through our continuous investment in research and development, AudioEye has created an automated test suite with 400+ test outcomes and 70+ automated fixes that allow us to solve the majority of common accessibility issues in real time.
But we also recognize the role of human expertise in delivering the highest level of accessibility to people with disabilities. To that end, we provide manual testing and remediation services and use the insights from manual audits — run by certified testers and members of the disability community — to develop new automated fixes and solve issues proactively.
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