Right now everyone seems to be talking tech, from exciting new projects and innovations, to AI and debates on hot topics. The future of disability inclusion and accessibility is an important topic, and the focus of the Microsoft Ability Summit 2022, an annual two-day free digital experience next month.
As well as keynotes from Microsoft executives and accessibility, industry and disability community panel experts, one can expect to learn about the latest in accessibility and disability-inclusive products, services and experiences at this event.
Digital transformation will not be complete without businesses considering conversational AI—an emerging technology behind automated messaging and speech-enabled applications that offers human-like interactions between computers and people for easier accessibility.
Tech, and all industries, must work to be all-inclusive and do the very best for less able-bodied members when it comes to accessibility and business websites, something that should eventually be rolled out as a matter of course.
Implications for Non-Compliance
To that note, there are implications of being sued for non-compliance with all of the recommended requirements of website accessibility. Unfortunately, according to a 2019 study, an astounding 98% of more than a million home pages of both large and small companies analyzed, failed to meet all the recommended requirements of website accessibility for disabled people.
Companies need to realize that incorporating accessibility into their core foundation will not only save them from fines but save their futures, as well as extend their reach to potential consumers, say Zammo.ai, the business behind the world’s leading cross-platform voice app solution to moving the world from screens to voice interactions.
Allowing people with accessibility differences to access information is important for every company. Alex Farr, CEO of Zammo, provided me with some more insight by explaining, “One of Zammo’s priorities is to ‘democratize voice,’ which includes making it simple and inexpensive for anyone to build out conversational AI. We constantly hear from companies and government entities that they simply don’t have the staff or technical ability to roll out chatbots, voice assistants or IVR, which can be key elements of making websites and information accessible to a broad audience. Zammo eliminates the need for in-house technical support and makes rolling out these tools quick and easy.”
Online Job Searching Sites
One example of this is online job search platforms, the go-to sites for job-seekers, particularly since the pandemic began and considering the growing trend of working-from-home and job changes.
- Those with specific access needs may be unable to navigate or gather information from job boards due to the design or layout of the site itself
- Many pages are not designed to be accessed using screen readers that convert text to voice or braille
- Some sites cannot be navigated correctly without the use of a mouse
All of these issues may end up in a situation where the best people for the role are being excluded from the talent pool, right at the beginning of the recruitment process. So, what’s the solution?
Accessibility with Artificial Intelligence
Zammo is beginning a new project with funding from a recently-awarded grant from Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program.
Its mission is to apply voice technologies to create accessibility-friendly interfaces for online job boards. The project should be completed by October of this year, and the end result should provide an open-source library exposing the technical and design assets of the solution for all to leverage and deploy, with the goal of increasing its widespread adoption across major job boards and service providers, while allowing the community to contribute to the assets and extend its reach.
“Microsoft is a key partner, and we are excited about this expansion of our partnership with Microsoft Commercial into the AI for Accessibility Program. Their support will allow us to expand these efforts and make an even bigger impact,” notes Farr.
Conversational AI in digital transformation is sending out an important message for business leaders worldwide. Look to your branding and to your website, the face of your business. Accessibility will allow you to practice and show social inclusivity and build a better business world for everyone.