NewView aims to improve web’s accessibility

Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2021 By: Kathryn McNutt Source: The Journal Record

Digital access is increasingly important as technology becomes more and more a part of everyday life and business. It is even more critical for people with disabilities who cannot access information available to others.

“Accessible is not always the same as usable,” said Jack McMahan, chief innovation and assistive technology officer at NewView Oklahoma.

A recent accessibility analysis of 1 million home pages by the Institute for Disability Research, Policy, and Practice at Utah State University revealed 97.4% had detectable Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) failures – things like missing alternative text for images and empty links.

NewView has developed a service to address those issues. It’s called READable. Using CommonLook software, the READable tech team uses various screen-reading devices to test and remediate content to meet industry accessibility standards.

The team members have an edge because they also are the target users. They all use assistive technology themselves.

McMahan said many agencies and companies use automated scans, which can flag approximately 25% of accessibility issues occurring on their websites. To get a full and accurate assessment of a website’s conformance with WCAG, both an automated scan and manual audit are needed.

“We’re the only group I know of doing both the automated and manual testing,” he said.

The testing goes beyond visual accessibility. It checks for mobility, sensory and cognitive issues as well – from ease of reaching a button to the use of logical short sentences for someone with a traumatic brain injury.

“We help companies develop a plan going forward based on their timing, personnel, technology and budget,” McMahan said.

“The need is becoming more apparent to businesses,” he said, both in how they connect with customers and how workers who require assistive technology get the job done.

“The majority of folks are making an effort to do the best job they can,” McMahan said. “We can add value by identifying problems, helping solve them and educating to keep it from happening again.”

In 2020, digital accessibility lawsuits surpassed 3,500 cases, a 23% increase over 2019, according to UsableNet, which reviews thousands of lawsuits in federal and state court that claim a violation of protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

McMahan said 620,000 people with disabilities are living in Oklahoma, and a significant number of them are veterans. Of all Oklahomans ages 18-64, only half as many with disabilities are employed compared to those without, he said.

“We want to generate jobs for people with disabilities,” McMahan said. That includes jobs in banking, higher education, law firms and medical services.

READable began working with state agencies in March and plans to work with municipal entities as well, McMahan said.

The nonprofit Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma recently signed a contract for the service.

“We have just started working with the NewView team to learn where we can improve our accessibility,” CEO Stacy Dykstra said. “We are excited to start this journey to ensure we remove barriers for our neighbors seeking food assistance and for those who want to join the fight against hunger.”

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