Technology How generative AI tools like ChatGPT can revolutionize web...

How generative AI tools like ChatGPT can revolutionize web accessibility


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Whether you use desktop software to solve business problems or scroll through your social media feed in the supermarket checkout, online connectivity is ubiquitous. In less than two decadesInternet users grew from just 0.4% of the world’s population to 69% by 2022.

In the U.S, 85% of Americans say they go online daily, while more than a third say they are “almost constantly” online. In the meantime, 90% of Americans saying the internet is “essential or important to them”, helping them stay informed, productive, connected and entertained.

However, for people with disabilities, accessing online content can often be a frustrating, complex or even impossible experience.

Companies, government agencies and website owners have a legal and ethical responsibility to make their platforms accessible to everyone. Fortunately, generative AI technologies, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, can change the narrative and revolutionize the way we approach web accessibility.


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The current state of web accessibility

Despite efforts to improve web accessibility over the years, internet accessibility is still far from being available to everyone. WebAIM’s accessibility report for 2022 showed that only one in four websites meet basic accessibility standards of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

As a result, millions of users with disabilities face significant barriers to accessing content online.

The consequences of this accessibility gap are significant. Inaccessible websites prevent people with disabilities from accessing essential information and services, participating in online activities and connecting with others. This limits their opportunities and reinforces their social and economic marginalization.

The repercussions are echoing across large corporations, digital platforms and government agencies. Ronza Othman, an attorney at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Baltimore who is blind, was unable to navigate the agency’s digital ecosystems after the digital transformation failed to accommodate accessibility standards. She expressed her frustration Politicssaying, “I’m a lawyer. I have a master’s degree in government and non-profit management. I’ve raised kids, but I can’t make a living on my own in my office.”

In fact, web accessibility is a legal requirement.

The WCAG provides a definitive framework for ensuring digital inclusion, while the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) enforces corporate compliance with these standards. Failure to comply can lead to legal action, as evidenced by recent high-profile cases against major corporations.

Companies like Netflix, Winn-Dixie, Blue Apron, Nike, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Amazon, Domino’s Pizza and thousands of others have filed lawsuits against them for insufficient web accessibility. A record last year 3,255 website accessibility lawsuits were filed in federal courts. Since 2017, accessibility-related cases have increased every year as increased awareness and increasing frustration prompt consumers to take legal action for online platforms’ failure to comply with legal standards.

We can all do better.

Making websites accessible to all users, including people with disabilities, creates new opportunities for education, employment and social interaction. This underscores the importance of using technologies such as generative AI to make web content more accessible to everyone.

Generative AI makes web accessibility more accessible

Web platforms have long used AI as an automated testing tool that identifies accessibility shortcomings and ensures real-time regulatory compliance. These tools are valuable and help companies keep their often sprawling online ecosystems available to everyone.

Generative AI changes the game by providing a more efficient and practical approach to web accessibility.

For starters, a technology like ChatGPT can enhance a brand’s website chatbots, allowing them to answer questions, provide information, or navigate the website based on the user’s needs.

Similarly, generative AI chatbots enable text-to-speech and speech-to-text conversion that can be integrated into existing systems to assist users with visual or hearing impairments. By converting written content into audio and vice versa, they help these users access and interact with web content more easily.

In addition, they can process and reformulate complex or technical content in simpler, more accessible language. This can be especially useful for users with cognitive disabilities or language barriers, or for users who prefer more straightforward language.

Another way generative AI can be used to improve accessibility is by generating alternative text (alt text) for images. This task is often tedious and time-consuming, especially when a website contains many pages of images. ChatGPT can automate the process by generating descriptions that accurately represent the content of such images.

Generative AI tools can also automatically scan websites and identify accessibility issues such as poor color contrast, missing alt text, or missing ARIA labels. It can then provide detailed remediation recommendations that developers can use to fix problems and improve the accessibility of their sites.

Finally, generative AI could play a vital role in raising developer awareness of the importance of accessibility. Many developers don’t have the knowledge or resources to create truly accessible sites. To address this problem, generative AI-powered chatbots could power virtual assistants that educate developers about the importance of accessibility and guide them in making websites more accessible.

An accessibility revolution

Certainly, generative AI in general and ChatGPT in particular are still in their infancy. ChatGPT is still considered a “research preview” even as companies integrate the technology to advance accessibility results. ChatGPT and its ilk are prone to hallucinations making them less trustworthy and reliable than many companies would like.

The recent release of GPT-4 marks an important milestone in the field of artificial intelligence, particularly natural language processing. With GPT-4, ChatGPT is more reliable, more creative, and capable of handling much more nuanced instructions.

GPT-4’s ability to handle longer and more complex conversations can lead to more efficient and effective communication with chatbots, which are commonly used on customer service websites. With GPT-4’s greater accuracy, ChatGPT can provide better answers to questions and more personalized help, improving the overall user experience.

This integration provides users with disabilities with new opportunities to access online content in immersive and interactive ways.

The rapid growth of internet use over the past two decades has changed the way we live, work and connect. However, a significant accessibility gap still exists, preventing millions of people with disabilities from taking full advantage of the benefits of the digital world. Companies, governments and website owners have a legal and ethical obligation to make their platforms accessible.

This is most important for the millions currently constrained by internet ecosystems. OpenAI’s ChatGPT, along with other generative AI technologies such as Google’s Bard, have the potential to revolutionize web accessibility and bridge the existing gap.

Let’s hope this is just the beginning.

By Ran Ronen is CEO of For a bit AI.

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