Enhancing accessibility of digital content

AI technology offers a wide range of tools that can improve accessibility

When creating and publishing digital content, it's essential to consider all web users, including individuals with disabilities. Fortunately, AI technology offers a wide range of tools that can improve accessibility and allow users to enjoy digital content regardless of their abilities.

  • Accessibility is essential to consider when creating, designing, and publishing all types of online content.
  • Many people with disabilities struggle to enjoy digital content due to various impairments, including visual and hearing impairments, mobility difficulties, and cognitive disabilities.
  • Thankfully, AI technology can be integrated into digital accessibility strategies to make all categories of digital content more accessible for everyone.

What is AI accessibility in digital content?

The digital world provides a vast network of information and opportunities, yet not everyone has equal access to digital content. People with disabilities can struggle to make the most of the content available online, including visiting websites, reading articles and blog posts, exploring social media, and watching videos.

When working towards a more inclusive society, it's crucial to consider accessibility challenges in the digital sphere. Although some online businesses, organizations, and platforms have made their content more accessible, others have not taken the necessary steps.

However, there is hope for the future, especially when considering the power of AI technology.

Rapid advancements in artificial intelligence have led to more accessibility enhancement opportunities. With smart tools and assistive technologies currently being released and developed, accessibility issues may soon be a challenge of the past for people with disabilities.

From face and object recognition and closed captions to advanced text to speech tools, AI can guide internet users of all abilities and enable them to enjoy and learn from the vast library of content currently available.

In this article, we identify some of the most common digital content accessibility issues and explore how AI tools can help solve some of these challenges.

Common digital accessibility issues

Society as a whole may have taken significant strides regarding accessibility, yet we still have a long way to go. One key challenge in this sphere is digital accessibility.

Although artificial intelligence has allowed people to make online content more accessible, only a percentage of digital content incorporates AI technology for accessibility purposes.

From physical problems like hearing and vision impairments to ADHD and reading difficulties, AI tools can significantly enhance accessibility regarding online content viewing and interaction.

So, what are the most common accessibility issues regarding online content?

Visual impairments

People with visual impairments can often struggle with all types of digital content, especially visual content like websites, videos, and blog articles. From blindness and poor vision to eye strain and frequent allergies, it's essential to make digital navigation accessible to those with visual impairments.

Likewise, it's important to consider people with color blindness when designing and publishing digital content and incorporate specific colors they can distinguish.

Hearing impairments

Hearing impairments can also present challenges in the digital sphere. Those who are hard of hearing may struggle to consume audio and video content and miss essential alerts or cues that are not visually indicated.

To make multimedia content more accessible, content creators will often upload or enable captions and provide visual indications for critical alerts.

Limited mobility

Digital content viewing may also be affected by mobility impairments, ranging from minor to severe. Some people struggle with precise movements (e.g., Parkinson's disease), making it difficult to navigate digital devices, type, and click on small areas.

Likewise, people may struggle with websites incompatible with assistive technologies (e.g., eye-tracking devices, mouth sticks, and head pointers).

Cognitive disabilities

In addition to physical disabilities, it's equally important to consider people's cognitive abilities, which can vary from person to person.

From learning and reading disabilities like dyslexia to memory and attention disorders like ADHD, people with cognitive challenges can also feel excluded from digital content interaction.

Those with learning disabilities may struggle to understand complex language or navigate websites with cluttered content. These challenges also apply to other cognitive disorders, yet many website owners and designers fail to prioritize UI/UX accessibility testing.

Speaking other languages

The majority of the internet is available in English, which is great for English speakers. But what about Polish, Punjabi, or even Portuguese?

If you don't speak English as a first language, you might find navigating YouTube, enjoying your favorite digital content creators, or even watching the latest movies difficult.

That's what ElevenLabs' founder Mati Staniszewski found when he was growing up in Poland, and why he went on to develop ElevenLabs as a result. Check it out here.

Common mistakes regarding digital content

Now that we've explored the everyday struggles people with disabilities face when consuming visual content let's look at the most frequent mistakes website owners, designers, and digital content creators make regarding accessibility.

1: Poor UI/UX design and usability

Although extravagant and creative web design choices can impress the average viewer, they're not the most accessible. From poorly distinguishable fonts and flashy design to a lack of responsiveness across different devices, web designers should consider people with disabilities when creating wireframes and approving the final design.

Likewise, websites should also be created with assistive technologies in mind since many people with mobility impairments rely on assistive technology to help with web navigation.

2: Lack of TTS features and captions

Whether you launch a new website, release a video, or publish a blog article or audiobook, your content should be adapted for people with visual or hearing impairments. Although this may seem like a lengthy process, inclusive design is easily achievable with innovative text-to-speech tools and AI-generated closed captions.

3: Unclear instructions

Regarding cognitive abilities, people may struggle with unclear instructions and insufficient guidance on using interactive elements or forms. Moreover, unclear feedback regarding errors or successful actions may pose accessibility problems and complicated language or jargon.

How AI tools can make digital content more accessible

It can't be denied that people with disabilities face a myriad of challenges regarding digital accessibility. However, rapid advancements in artificial intelligence are giving rise to smart tools that can benefit people with restrictions, content creators, and society as a whole.

Every year, AI technology continues transforming the digital sphere and can be implemented to improve accessibility. AI technology, like machine learning algorithms and natural language processing, has also advanced tremendously, leading to the rise of innovative solutions and enabling users of different abilities to enjoy the digital realm.

Let's explore these tools in more detail.

Text to speech tools and screen readers

To make content more accessible for visually impaired people, tools like text to speech converters and screen readers can provide much-needed visual assistance.

Text to speech tools

Advanced text-to-speech and AI voice generation solutions like ElevenLabs can significantly assist those with visual impairments. Whether you need to convert a piece of text to natural-sounding speech, narrate an audiobook, or dub a video into a different language, ElevenLabs is a multifunctional tool for all text-to-speech purposes.

Screen readers

In addition to text-to-speech tools, visually impaired people frequently rely on screen readers for website navigation.

One way to make your website more accessible for visually impaired people is to ensure it's screen reader-friendly. AI tools can assist by analyzing and adjusting reading order, ensuring appropriate use of headings, and identifying and fixing elements that screen readers might misinterpret.

Closed captions, subtitles, and speech to text

For people with hearing impairments, AI solutions like closed captions, subtitles, and speech to text converters can be very helpful.

Closed captions and subtitles

Closed captions and subtitles are easier to generate than ever. Thanks to automated captioning tools on video streaming platforms like YouTube, people with hearing impairments can now enjoy multimedia content.

Speech to text

Speech to text tools are essentially the opposite of the text-to-speech tools referred to above. AI-powered speech recognition tools like Google's Live Caption or Microsoft's Azure Speech Service can easily convert spoken dialogue into written text across various multimedia content, such as videos, podcasts, and live broadcasts.

Image recognition and video summarization

Identifying images and providing video summaries are two additional ways people with disabilities, especially visually impaired people or those with cognitive difficulties, can enjoy digital content.

Image recognition

Image alternative text descriptions aren't just crucial for search engine optimization (SEO) results. Accurate alt texts can also assist people with disabilities, especially those using screen readers. Fortunately, AI algorithms used by tools like Facebook's automatic alt text generation and Google Cloud Vision can recognize and describe image content relatively accurately.

Video summarization

Another way to improve accessibility is to use video summarization tools like Google's Video Intelligence API to generate accurate descriptions or highlight reels of longer videos. Such options not only help people with disabilities or hearing impairments but also make long-form video content more accessible for people with limited time.

Smart home devices

Smart home devices like Alexa and Google Assistant have transformed the way people live their daily lives, but did you know they can also function similarly to assistive technologies?

From smart home management, like turning appliances on and off, to ring camera tracking and answering questions, smart home devices use speech recognition and natural language to respond to various voice commands.

Accessibility goes beyond everyday tasks since smart home devices can also read content out loud, quickly find information on the web, and even translate digital content.

Natural language processing

Understanding the context and meaning of digital content is vital for accessibility. By integrating NLP into digital accessibility strategies, AI tools can offer better summaries, translations, or explanations, meeting the needs of users with various disabilities and those who speak different languages.

Personalized assistance and accessibility

Alongside general accessibility, AI technology also enables personalized assistance. Examples include adjusting reading levels and speeds, font sizes, and color schemes based on individual feedback, personalizing interfaces, providing summaries, structuring text for better comprehension, and predictive text and auto-completion.

Likewise, personalized assistants like AI-powered chatbots can also improve accessibility on online platforms and help people with various disabilities navigate websites and ask questions.

Accessibility testing

In addition to making digital content more accessible for people with disabilities, AI tools can help guide content creators and show whether their content aligns with current web content accessibility guidelines and standards.

AI tools like Axe or Google Lighthouse can scan digital documents and websites for accessibility problems, such as missing heading structures and alt text. Likewise, accessibility testing tools like Microsoft Word's Accessibility Checker can offer real-time insights and suggestions to improve accessibility.

Multilingual support

Another vital accessibility element is the availability of translations in the form of dubs and subtitles.

AI-powered tools like Google Translate or DeepL can quickly translate text into multiple languages, including transcriptions and captions.

Moreover, text-to-speech and voice generation tools like ElevenLabs can also aid multilingual accessibility by providing translations for transcription and dubbing purposes. This makes content appear more natural, and opens up content to a whole new audience of people around the globe.

Watch ElevnLab's natural dubbing in action here:

Final thoughts

Needless to say, advancements in artificial intelligence are leading to a more promising future regarding accessibility. Although AI technologies are still being developed and tweaked, many tools already on the market offer valuable support and assistance to people with disabilities and enhance the accessibility of digital content.

AI technology has demonstrated immense potential in helping to build a more inclusive society on and offline, allowing people to enjoy digital content regardless of their abilities.

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