2017 Digital Accessibility Year in Review

Before diving right into the new year, we wanted to take time to look back at 2017: the year in digital accessibility.

2017 was a banner year in digital accessibility with important legal precedents set, further accessible technology advancements from digital giants like Facebook and Microsoft, and AudioEye’s own growth and innovation.

After nearly two decades of static accessibility standards, January 2017 saw the United States Access Board update the accessibility standards within Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This “refresh” incorporated Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, aligning accessibility standards for US federal government websites with the web accessibility guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, and used internationally. These guidelines are set to take effect in January 2018.

Legal Developments

While the year was a busy one for lawsuits related to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), with an estimated 814 federal lawsuits alleging inaccessible websites, there was one case in particular that stands out.

The first ever web accessibility case to make it to trial happened in 2017 with Gil v. Winn Dixie. Florida U.S. District Judge Scola issued the first trial verdict against the supermarket chain on June 13th for having a website that was unusable by the blind plaintiff. Judge Scola also found that the cost of remediation of Winn Dixie’s website was not an undue burden, and ordered that they update their site to conform to WCAG 2.0 AA.

On the legal front of digital accessibility, 2017 wasn’t all good news. In July, the Department of Justice (DOJ) placed its planned web accessibility regulations under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on an “inactive” list. This has stoked confusion and uncertainty about plans that once had Title II and III regulations coming in Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018. As of December 26, 2017, the DOJ removed the proposed rules “inactive” status, repealing all pending ADA Title III rule-makings. Experts expect this lack of guidance will lead to more litigation in the months and years to come.

Technical Achievements

In addition to a busy year in the legal realm for digital accessibility, some of the biggest innovators in the tech world made accessibility a priority.

Honored for leading the charge toward a more accessible digital world, the American Foundation for the Blind announced both Microsoft and Facebook would be recipients of the Hellen Keller Achievement Award for, "their exemplary roles in creating accessible products or improving the accessibility of their already-popular products.” The awards presentation will take place on April 4, 2018.

Facebook’s award comes as the company has been steadily adding accessibility features, such as the Automatic Alternative Text feature, which have increased the compatibility of their website and applications with assistive technology and accessibility-related settings.

Microsoft will be awarded, "for its significant strides in developing inclusive technologies to empower people with disabilities. Examples include...the Seeing AI app, which narrates the world for people who are blind or have sight loss, Eye Control on Windows 10...that allows individuals with severe mobility issues...to communicate and use a computer with only the movement of their eyes...enhancements in Office 365...such as optical character recognition in Office Lens, which inputs content directly into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote…[and] Xbox One updates, like Copilot and the Accessibility API, make the system even more accessible to people with disabilities.”

In addition to these specific innovations, Microsoft also offered a free operating system upgrade to Windows 10 for customers using assistive technologies. The Fall Creators Update to Windows 10 now integrates many accessibility features that previously required the use of third party technology. While this offer was set to expire on December 31, 2017, they have extended the deadline to January 16, 2018.

AudioEye’s Growth

As understanding of the importance of accessibility, usability and inclusivity increases, and more entities are aware of their need to have accessible websites compliant with ADA-related requirements, many are seeking real guidance on the best path forward to achieve and maintain accessibility on the web. This has helped AudioEye grow at an unprecedented rate.

The alignment of the Digital Accessibility Platform (DAP) with the updated Section 508 standards (refresh), make us a likely solution for federal agencies. Through our Ally Managed Service, our products are now deployed on thousands of sites, for hundreds of clients, publishing more than a billion remediations daily.

The world has started to truly understand overlay technology and the importance of making accessibility mainstream. Ever-committed to the position that accessibility is about people rather than compliance, AudioEye has been able to build accessibility into existing websites and web applications, help entities outsource the task of making their web presence more accessible to save time and money thus quickly conforming to ADA-related standards and best practices.

At AudioEye, Accessibility is our passion; our team truly understands and is committed to our mission. We are proud that more than 45% of the AudioEye Team achieved International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) certifications, with even more teammates working toward certification.

By fostering a rich ecosystem of Accessibility Professionals in partnership with organizations such as IAAP, we raise the profile of issues of accessibility, and further our mission of inclusivity.

In addition to our IAAP certified team members, in 2017 we were honored to congratulate our AT/QA Analyst, Kaely Wang who joined an elite class of Freedom Scientific JAWS Certified Testers when she passed a stringent exam with a worldwide pass rate of less than 25%.

What’s next?

Heading into 2018, we’re looking at the above mentioned Section 508 update, forthcoming 2.1 updates to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and some exciting product news from AudioEye. So stay tuned here on the nClusion Blog and AudioEye’s social media (@audioeyeinc) for important updates, advances and how AudioEye will continue to make digital content more accessible, and more usable, for more people.

AudioEye provides a comprehensive set of tools that enables digital content providers to create experiences that are more accessible, and more usable, for more people.

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