Human society has entered into the fourth phase of the industrial revolution. Artificial intelligence was a topic of science fiction a few years ago, but now it is rapidly transforming all walks of our lives. From software to hardware, AI is changing the way we manufacture things to how we interact with other humans. It is also changing approximately every aspect of our lives, including how to assist people with disabilities. AI is not only solving problems for us, but it is also helping us to learn more about web accessibility.
If we want to understand how AI is changing the face of website accessibility, we must understand the technologies that relate the two. The 1st thing it needs is a lot of data. AI cannot function without huge amounts of data that it uses to learn and compute the outcomes. It is a string of using algorithms to go through data, learn from it, and determine the outcome through three neural networks. When the neural network processes the data, it forms numerous patterns. These patterns help to identify solutions that were impossible for the machine before the AI got implemented. Let us review the individual technological aspects that AI uses to solve web accessibility problems.
People who are visually impaired or blind may not be able to see the images. Pictures cannot be translated by assistive technologies like screen readers either. That is why it is a general practice for websites to provide alt texts with images to optimize its accessibility. Screen readers use these alt texts to read out a description of the image. But what happens when the alt text is missing?
Thanks to the automated alt-text feature introduced by Facebook in 2016, AI can recognize the picture and match it with the data. That’s how Facebook can suggest automatic tags for people on images. The same technology gets used to generate missing alt text that can be read by screen readers and other assistive devices.
It took a few years to make facial recognition software perfect enough to be used for web accessibility. Initially, it was implemented by Apple to unlock iPhones. But these days, the same technology gets used to unlock phones, laptops, and other kinds of smart devices. Facial recognition is also used on several assistive devices for people who can only move their head. It is particularly helpful for web accessibility as an alternative for CAPTCHA. People with disabilities face a lot of difficulties with CAPTCHA tests. AI-powered solutions can recognize the face of a person to ensure that a robot is not trying to access the website.
Did you know that AI is four times more successful than lip-reading experts in the world? Google’s DeepMind project conducted an experiment where they trained their AI software with the help of BBC videos. Then they tested the software against the top lip-reading experts from all over the world. The software achieved a success rate of 46.8% against 12.4% of the experts. The same technology is getting used by AI software to generate automatic captions for videos on websites. That means if the designers and developers forgot to put captions on their media content, AI-powered solutions can generate them automatically so that people who are hard of hearing can get the information from them.
Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) has improved a lot in the last few years. The popularity of smart speakers by Amazon and Google are proof of that. People with movement restrictions can use ASR software for web accessibility with ease. ASR has also helped in translating languages and accents of people, making the internet more accessible.
Most of the information on websites is text, which means visually impaired people can use assistive devices to access that information. But blog posts and other informative sites can be too long and confusing for people with cognitive disorders. Such people can benefit from AI solutions that summarise the text contents and breaks down long articles and posts into easily understandable parts. The software can also simplify long sentences that may confuse people with cognitive disabilities.
These recent advances in AI technology have been a boon for web accessibility. While in the earlier day, designers and developers had to struggle with accessibility by modifying the programs and codes. But now, making a website accessible using automated AI-powered software is easy. And thanks to artificial intelligence, the future of accessibility of the internet looks promising.
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