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Is A.I.-Based Website Accessibility a Viable Option for Compliance?

Jun 16, 2024

The rapid expansion of artificial intelligence (A.I.) technology has businesses scrambling to find use cases. In a recent survey from AuthorityHacker, 35% of businesses said that they had adopted A.I., while 90% of businesses said they supported A.I. for gaining a competitive advantage. 

Generative A.I. has attracted significant attention in digital accessibility spaces, as tools like ChatGPT have been touted for their ability to write alternative text (alt text) for images, provide captions for videos, and perform various other tasks.

That prompts a question: Can you use artificial intelligence (A.I.) to improve your website’s accessibility? 

The quick answer is yes, but with some significant caveats. Below, we’ll discuss how A.I. can be used to support your web accessibility initiative — and why A.I. alone isn’t enough for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other non-discrimination laws.

How A.I. Helps Web Accessibility

A.I. is already a powerful tool for supporting the best practices of accessible design. Tools specifically built for accessibility will typically use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as a framework.

Automation is excellent at analyzing issues with simple pass/fail rulesets. That includes:

But automation cannot apply human-like judgment (at least, not yet). An automated web accessibility checker could determine whether the HTML is correct, but it could not write alt text for images — at least, not with a high degree of accuracy.

Related: What’s the Difference Between Manual and Automated Accessibility Testing?

How A.I. May Make Websites Less Accessible

Current-generation A.I. tools are impressive, but it’s important to understand their limitations. Each use case should be carefully evaluated — particularly if A.I. is promoted as a “comprehensive solution" for accessibility. 

Without a thoughtful approach, A.I. can introduce issues that make content less accessible. For example:

Ultimately, web authors have a responsibility to test their content and ensure a reasonable level of accessibility for users with disabilities. 

A.I. tools can make that work somewhat easier, but they can also impart a false sense of confidence — if you’re not regularly auditing your content against WCAG, you should assume that your website has accessibility issues. 

Related: Avoid These Common Mistakes When Testing for Accessibility

A Hybrid Approach for Digital Accessibility Compliance

You can certainly use generative A.I. tools as part of your web accessibility initiative, and if you’ve got a large website with a substantial amount of content, A.I. might be extraordinarily helpful. 

However, if you don’t understand why you need to make changes for accessibility, you’re bound to make mistakes. A comprehensive accessibility strategy should include a balance of automated and manual tests. Wherever possible, manual tests should be performed by humans who use assistive technology regularly. Any automated fixes should be reviewed for accuracy, and you should stay focused on the users — the real people who use your website. 

The Bureau of Internet Accessibility and AudioEye offer resources to help brands combine powerful automation with guidance from human accessibility experts. We believe that our approach provides the best path to WCAG conformance (and the best experiences for users).

Learn about AudioEye’s Automated Accessibility Platform or get started with a free, confidential website analysis.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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