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The push to make websites accessible for people with disabilities as COVID-19 outbreak continues

Posted at 10:39 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 22:39:32-04

As we work from home or shelter in place during the COVID-19 outbreak, we all depend on the internet and websites to get by. But for some people with disabilities, using the internet is a lot more complicated.

For Lyndon Dunbar and others like him who live with visual impairments, navigating inaccessible websites can be frustrating or impossible.

Something we all take for granted, like checking out online, isn't always easy.

"A button may not be labeled properly and I don't know if I'm canceling an order or completing an order," Dunbar said.

Right now, Dunbar estimates that less than 20% of websites are accessible for people with disabilities. Companies such as Audioeye are trying to change that.

CEO Heath Thompson said during the pandemic, companies began to understand the importance of accessible websites.

"I mean, I think everybody can really appreciate the need for digital accessibility as, frankly, just think about everything you probably do in today's life, including this interview, which is completely reliant on digital technology," Thompson said.

Dunbar, who works for Audioeye as a digital accessibility specialist, said making a website accessible means he can use it in the way it was intended.

"I can navigate by headings to jump across different sections of the page," he said. "When I come across an image, there's a description of the image. Completing a form, the form fields actually have labels to them and I know what I'm putting into certain fields."

Companies without compliant websites could find themselves in legal trouble.Courts have ruled that the internet is covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Former California Congressman Tony Coelho helped author the bill before it was passed; now he sits on the board for Audioeye.

"So in effect, the Supreme Court has ruled that the ADA is applicable to the internet," Coelho said. "And now we can educate the business community and others."

Audioeye retrofits websites or helps design them from the ground up so they are easy to use for people with visual, audial, and motor impairments to make sure the internet is accessible to everyone.

"Having that accessibility over and across a broad range of disabilities is really important, that's part of the challenge," Thompson said. "These are some of the challenges that we solve at Audioeye."

In a post COVID world, he said it's more important than ever.