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The Importance of Human Experience in Accessibility

Van  Thompson Portrait
By: Van Thompson
August 6, 2021

Can an accessibility checker powered by artificial intelligence ever replace a real human auditor? Here’s why technology can’t do it alone. 

If you’ve ever written an email, typed in a word document, or even sent a text to a friend, you’ve most likely used a spellchecker before. This handy automated tool can help point out errors in your spelling, grammar, and punctuation without needing a human editor to look over your writing. 

Spellcheck works well enough on its own, but it’s far from a perfect solution. If you’ve ever had to explain to someone why your text message came out wrong, you can likely agree that spellcheck can’t always get the job done perfectly.

With this in mind, if you were an award-winning author working on your latest novel, would you leave your editing to spellcheck? Of course not! You would use the services of an editor to make sure your manuscript was error-free. So why do people believe they can rely on similar automated systems to ensure websites are accessible? In short, your website needs an accessibility auditor.

When checking your website for accessibility compliance, it can be tempting to go for one of the many services that provide their accessibility check using Artificial Intelligence. People are turning to these services now because, as of 2021, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act says that websites must be accessible. 

These Accessibility checker tools are advertised as cheaper, faster alternatives to manual audits. The automated systems tell you if your website is compliant with accessibility standards. Are these tools too good to be true? Could a computer program do the same work a manual auditor could in a fraction of the time? 

If you’ve learned anything from using spellcheck, you’ve learned that a computer program can’t always be 100% reliable in checking for human error. There are too many unexpected variables for Artificial Intelligence to be able to figure them all out. Nothing beats an accessibility professional checking out your site to tell you what needs to be changed.

A client came to us after using an automated accessibility checker on their website. Understandably, the client assumed their site was fully accessible after correcting the issues identified by the accessibility checker software. One of our auditors went through the same site. He uses a screen-reader to navigate the web because he is blind. He found nine accessibility errors on their first page alone, and the rest of the site didn’t fare any better.

The client was shocked! They had assumed the automated checker had done the job right the first time. The results were no surprise to us. Our auditors are real people with disabilities, and they can point out things that AI-powered checkers often miss. An automated checker just can’t offer what a person with a disability can offer when looking at website navigation. Artificial Intelligence cannot replace real-life experience. 

Accessibility compliance is more than checking for some arbitrary values and ticking boxes off on a list. Programmers cannot capture the experiences of people with disabilities through lines of code or algorithms. It takes a deep, human understanding based on experience to create a more accessible Internet. Automated accessibility checkers, just like spellcheck, can be helpful tools, but don’t rely on them alone. An automated checker can make your website more accessible. To make sure your site is fully accessible, you must get human insight. Acessibrand can help you provide a welcoming and inclusive experience for all website visitors. Contact us today - you’ll be glad you did!

Accessibrand is an accessibility-focused collective of design, marketing, and communications professionals that want to help businesses create a more disability-focused future. We’re an agency that knows how to make material accessible because we see the world from the perspective of those personally affected by disability. For website audits and other marketing, design and communications needs, contact for further information.

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