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Post by Shir, Gal & Dekel accessiBe Founders

Our vision: to make the entire internet fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

Let's start from the end: It's not a dream, it's a vision. By 2025, all the websites around the world are going to be fully accessible. We are already racing at a dizzying pace. The digital world has become the real world in the past few years. Try to think about what you're doing nowadays: making purchases, talking with friends, ordering food, keeping up to date with the news, watching media, etc. Where do you do that? Online!

Now, pay attention to the unfortunate fact. All of this greatness hardly exists for people with disabilities. Just imagine life today without a smartphone; without a laptop or tablet; and without Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp. Can you? It's scary. Now you see that this is the everyday life of people with disabilities.

Luckily, technology continues to develop and offer a variety of solutions, and the world of disabilities receives quite a few of these, even when dealing with significant problems such as physical or cognitive disabilities. Nowadays, we can allow a blind person to surf the Internet almost entirely, thanks to screen reader programs combined with accessiBe. Using the same technology, we can enable a person with Parkinson's, who isn't able to use the mouse with sufficient precision, to thoroughly surf a website using only one keyboard key. Thanks to these innovations, we can enable an epileptic person, who's afraid to enter sites for fear of chancing upon animations that will cause him a seizure, to stop all animations completely and surf freely without worry. This is not science fiction — all this happens on a technological, autonomous, and automatic level. The revolution is taking place right now!

All of these developments did not exist before accessiBe and are exclusive to us only. The technological "add-ons" that exist today usually sums up to applying several accessibility functions to the site, but their compatibility level ranges from only 5–20%. In other words, these are solutions that are not practical and not legal (do not comply with regulations). If you choose to "make your site accessible" through such "add-ons," it is the equivalent of reaching your hand out to a blind person and, just before he grabs it, pull back.

Until accessiBe, the only way to make a site fully accessible was to pay thousands upon thousands of dollars to companies that provide accessibility services and even pay a monthly fee, as any small change on your site must be made accessible again, or your site's accessibility level will fall dramatically. This approach allows us to make the site accessible, but the price is simply unrealistic when it starts with thousands of dollars and ends with tens of thousands of dollars. This price is feasible for a tiny percentage of companies and directly eliminates all small- and medium-sized business owners, because they cannot invest those crazy amounts of money. In the end, those affected by it are people with disabilities, who can surf a meager percentage of sites at best. Our technological solution uses two artificial intelligence programs, allowing each site owner, as small or as big, to make their site fully accessible at a price that is between a fifth and a tenth (and sometimes even more) of the cost of the manual accessibility project. Did we say it’s a revolution?

So how did it all begin?

At the end of 2015, we were informed that a law would soon be issued, requiring websites to be accessible to people with disabilities. As the owners of a marketing, design, and web development company with a history of innovative technological ventures, we knew how much time and money it takes to make websites properly accessible. As a result, we were angry at the law and feared it. We were afraid that those who absorbed the costs of accessibility would eventually be us and, even if not, we were worried that customers wouldn't agree to pay another 50% of the project's value (at best) only for accessibility. We could lose projects, and we might lose our income. And if that was not enough, there was always the fear that a client might receive a lawsuit, which might eventually roll over to us (as we designed and developed the website). So yes, it all started with anger. Anger at the state, and anger at the law.

Time went on, and we began to delve into regulations and the law. We also started to make websites accessible as part of our services and, as we entered this world, we realized how disabled people are excluded from the modern world, not by anyone's fault. We found ourselves with great sympathy for people with disabilities on the one hand but also with great anger toward the law on the other. Why? Because it created a situation where we ended up between a rock and a hard place.

Think about it: The law is supposed to create equal rights for people with the most significant difficulties in the society but, in practice, it directly harms owners of small- and medium-sized businesses, who in any case are fighting the daily economic survival war. So what should we do? Pick a side? Are we siding with people with disabilities or against them? Are we siding with small-to-medium business owners or against them?

And then the decision was made: We take all the sides and go all the way. We'll find the cure for the disease, the solution to the problem, and we'll start the revolution! We are excellent technology people, and there's no one better to take this responsibility, and so we did.

We immediately went to assisted living homes and to people we know in this field to find cooperation with different disabled people. We began working together with them, sitting next to each other, day after day, for more than 13 months. The development process was also attended by lawyers and site accessibility experts to make sure that our product does four things:

  1. Provides an effective and real solution for people with different disabilities.
  2. Meets international standards and laws (WCAG 2 - AA level, ADA Section 508 & EN 301549).
  3. Does it automatically, thanks to the technology, and does not require manual programming work.
  4. Stable enough to fully work on any website and any platform.

After 18 months of intensive work, we came to the first stable version that met the four criteria we defined, and we knew that we could launch our product. In March 2018, we released the first version in Israel and, within a few weeks, we got over 100 customers. Over the next five months, we worked with tremendous energy on improvements and additions to the system, which turned it into a platform used by over 1,000 sites. In August 2018, thanks to the cooperation and feedback from hundreds of people with disabilities who use our system on a daily basis, our system has officially become the only technological system in the world that knows how to make all websites fully accessible. The system not only does so according to the standard but also achieves a lot more than that with solutions to problems that arose from the field — from people with disabilities who use the product themselves — on a daily basis.

At the same time, our challenge has only just begun. There's no end to the technological improvements that we can and do implement in our system every day, and the challenge of placing our system on every website in the world within seven years has just begun.

If we succeed, the world wins. Good luck to all of us!

Shir, Gal, and Dekel, founders of accessiBe.