Trends may come and trends may go, but some trends are here to stay. And amongst these, accessibility has been a growing niche wherein a few upcoming digital accessibility trends present a promising future for the domain in 2021 and beyond.
Trends in digital accessibility essentially point towards some anticipated enhancements that are expected to roll out this year and some ideal enhancements that should also be considered.
We’ve already touched upon some in our previous blog, but let’s have a closer look at what awaits for the realm and trends in digital accessibility, and the importance of accessibility testing services as a whole:
1. Limelight Falls on AI and ML in Accessibility
With automation soaring to heights, accessibility has also witnessed its seminal effect in terms of AI techniques being assimilated within such efforts. As the dawn of Big Data shines its light upon us, there are a number of challenges for aligning ML within accessibility.
From data usage of differently-abled users to the varied analysis that it would bring about along with possible apprehensions from users in tracking their activities, data gathering remains an issue even today. That being said, the increased focus on AI and ML can come about in instances of keyboard navigation or alt text, using simulations for enhancing end-user experience.
For such an effort, enhancing accessibility testing tools and Assistive Technologies (ATs) becomes imperative in staying at par with the nuances in AI and digital transformation as a whole. AI and ML would do wonders in expediting accessibility testing and augmenting user-experience through enhanced suggestions and targeted preferences.
However, the need to retain manual testing would still exist and be run in parallel in order to eliminate maximum accessibility fallacies.
2. Inclusion of Digital Accessibility Within Accessibility Laws
From Section 508 to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), every accessibility law has so far excluded a particular emphasis on digital accessibility as a mandate. A digital accessibility trend that is expected, or rather was already started but failed to pass, was the Online Accessibility Act.
Within the ADA, this amendment was to bring about a focused emphasis on digital accessibility- “include consumer facing websites and mobile applications owned or operated by a private entity and to establish web accessibility compliance standards for such websites and mobile applications, and for other purposes.”
However, its failure to get accepted and implemented as a mandate, points out to the very need that a trend of including digital accessibility as a separate norm should ideally come into picture again and a step to look forward to this year.
Enhancements in regional accessibility laws, such as Canada’s AODA, are also expected to roll out this year. This would thus call for an increased focus on accessibility testing services for ensuring compliance to the set norms and laws, including WCAG compliance testing– for adhering to the latest guidelines, be it the upcoming 2.2 guidelines or the futuristic 3.0 guidelines.
3. Watch Out for Those Accessibility Lawsuits
Legal suits against non-conformance to the accessibility laws have been on the rise. Although there was a decrease noticed from 2019 to 2020 in terms of ADA Title III Lawsuits, it is noted that it was majorly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, in the coming months, it can be expected that there would be a rise in these lawsuits again if they do not adhere to the set accessibility guidelines and laws. Organizations have been seen to put overlays into their websites and applications as a means to show compliance to the norms.
But more often than not, these don’t seem to fit the bill as they aren’t thoroughly tested for automated errors for alt texts, tags, etc. This can be a pain point for differently-abled users. Thus, to avoid accessibility lawsuits and implement these overlays effectively, accessibility testing would be gaining more momentum for times to come.
4. Adoption of Digital Accessibility by Social Media Platforms
Social media has become a part and parcel of our lives. Irrespective of being a boon or a bane, it has surely become an important tool of disseminating information. A growing trend in digital accessibility that is being observed is making such platforms inclusive for all by continuous enhancements.
Twitter, for example, has recently launched the option of sending out audio clips in Direct Messages (DMs)- helping visually-impaired users benefit from such a functionality. Thus, companies have started putting deliberate efforts into creating a digitally inclusive space for people using ATs, making this trend in digital accessibility soar high.
5. Products’ Designs Will Fall in line With Accessibility
With accessibility being no more of an afterthought, the growing trend to include it within the design of a product from the get-go, is coming into being. A digitally inclusive UI/UX design would not just help differently-abled users but would prove to be an advantageous effort early-on rather than remediating accessibility pain points post release.
A collaborative effort between testers and developers would go a long way via shifting left as well as incorporating accessibility from the onset. Thus, as a digital accessibility trend, a digitally inclusive design should be seeing a brighter light of the day this year.
6. Game On With Accessibility
An extremely promising digital accessibility trend that is coming into picture is accessibility in the gaming domain. There is an increased effort of enhancing the gaming experience for differently-abled users, be it in terms of audio controls, visual effects or compliance to the accessibility guidelines for gaming.
For instance, Microsoft has been seen to drive this initiative ahead in ensuring that digital accessibility is kept aloft for differently-abled gamers. Accessible AR and VR headsets also point towards an increased focus on automation and AI – for which accessibility testing services become crucial to avail.
With this trend on the rise, it can be expected that 2021 would witness more organizations following such pursuit in ensuring that gaming aligns well with the accessibility standards and norms.
Thus, this year (and in the coming years), the digital accessibility trends that are on the rise are surely promising for the domain of digital accessibility. This also means that a greater need for accessibility testing would arise, not just with core manual efforts but an increased focus on automation and AI. Helping enhance end-users’ experience, the digital arena is no more constrained to the age old traditions but digital transformation is on the rise – for which accelerating digital accessibility becomes a significant effort.