A fresh thought leader, a contributor to Forbes, co-founder of Offpista – and now CEO of Equally AI, Ran Ronen is making web accessibility standard across the tech industry. The automated web accessibility solution is committed to making the internet a better experience for people with disabilities.
What are the biggest challenges for today’s tech companies striving to make their digital products and platforms more accessible? Ronen believes that companies need an intentional approach and more capable resources to achieve better outcomes for their users and beneficiaries.
And if that feels too abstract to be useful, our conversation with Ran breaks down the major obstacles to web accessibility, how tech entrepreneurs can build a better internet for everyone, and who benefits from effective accessibility solutions.
M.R. Rangaswami: Why is web accessibility such a critical topic for tech entrepreneurs, web developers, marketing professionals, and other industry leaders this year?
Ran Ronen: Web accessibility standards are not new, but our relationship with the internet has certainly accelerated during the recent pandemic. Thirty percent of U.S. adults report being online constantly, and the internet is now a prime gateway for everything from workplace participation to social engagement. Unfortunately, for the 1.3 billion people with disabilities, access to these digital platforms is often imperfect at best and unusable at worst, requiring companies to take action to bridge the digital divide.
At the same time, people with disabilities are forcing digital platforms to evolve by filing accessibility-related lawsuits against companies that don’t comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and the Americans with Disabilities Act. These lawsuits have forced major retailers, academic institutions, and digital platforms to improve their accessibility solutions.
The costs and reputation damage associated with these lawsuits is pushing many people to update their offerings, while others are motivated by maximizing engagement on their platforms.
M.R.: Web accessibility solutions have been around for years. What are the shortcomings of these technologies, and what’s new about the latest iteration of accessibility technologies?
Ran: That’s true. Several prominent tech companies, including Apple and Google, have made significant accessibility developments, making their products and services more usable to more people. At the same time, screen reader technologies have helped blind people experience the web in a limited capacity.
However, when it comes to web accessibility, too many companies are doing the bare minimum to achieve regulatory compliance without implementing solutions that actually enhance or extend web use for people with disabilities. Meanwhile, many companies don’t engage their users to develop progressively better solutions. Some accessibility products, like screen readers, don’t account for the increasingly immersive experience that defines today’s web platforms.
In many ways, artificial intelligence is changing that equation, allowing accessibility solutions to be more dynamic and immersive than ever before. When this technology is coupled with community engagement and thoughtful implementation, people with disabilities have a better opportunity to engage the internet than ever before.
Equally AI is committed to democratizing the internet by making it more accessible for everyone. Who stands to benefit from these efforts?
In a very real way, everyone benefits when more people can experience the incredible developments in today’s online platforms and services. Digital platforms can grow their user base, people with disabilities can engage in the digital age, and companies and society generally benefit from a more equitable and accessible system.
At Equally AI, we are dedicated to providing the best experience for our solution’s beneficiaries, believing that by serving our users, we are contributing to a better internet that’s positioned to improve more peoples’ lives.
M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com