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The road to an equal web includes assistive technology

February 28, 2023
In the web accessibility field we hear a lot about assistive technology. But people without disabilities will be mostly ignorant about what assistive technology actually is, as well as what constitutes assistive technology. So let us break down for you the meaning of assistive technology, how important it is, and what your role, as the providers of goods and services to individuals with impairments, is for compatibility with assistive technologies.
Simply put, assistive technology is any device, software, or equipment that helps people with disabilities to perform tasks that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. These technologies can range from simple devices like hearing aids and magnifying glasses to more complex devices like speech recognition software and prosthetic limbs.

The goal of assistive technology is to help people with disabilities to live more independently and to participate more fully in their communities. For example, assistive technology might help a person with a visual impairment to read a book, or a person with a mobility impairment to use a computer.

Assistive technology can be divided into two broad categories: low-tech and high-tech. Low-tech assistive technology includes devices that are simple and affordable, such as canes, hearing aids, and pill organizers. High-tech assistive technology includes devices that are more complex and expensive, such as speech recognition software, electronic communication devices, and powered wheelchairs.

Web accessibility and assistive technology

Now where does web accessibility meet assistive technology? Is it important to keep in mind that both are closely related, as both are focused on ensuring that people with disabilities can access and use digital content. In essence, they both have the same purpose (helping people with disabilities), but their means are different.

Let us explain. Web accessibility refers to the design and development of websites and digital content in a way that makes them accessible to people with disabilities. This includes providing alternative text for images, ensuring that content can be navigated using keyboard controls, and ensuring that color contrast is sufficient for people with visual impairments.

Assistive technology, on the other hand, refers to any device or software that helps people with disabilities to access digital content. For example, a screen reader is a type of assistive technology that reads out web content for people with visual impairments. At the same time, a switch input device can help people with mobility impairments navigate websites using only a few large buttons.

By designing websites and digital content to be accessible, developers can help ensure that assistive technologies are practical and can be used by people with disabilities. In turn, assistive technologies can help people with disabilities to access a wide range of digital content.

Assistive technology compatibility

The difficulty of making websites compatible with assistive technology can vary depending on a variety of factors, such as the complexity of the website, the type of assistive technology being used, and the skill level of the web developer.

Designing accessible websites requires knowledge of accessibility guidelines and best practices, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Developers also need to understand how people with disabilities use assistive technology to interact with websites and digital content.

In some cases, making a website compatible with assistive technology can be as simple as adding Alt Text to images and ensuring that content can be navigated using keyboard controls. In other cases, it may require more complex changes to the website`s code and design.

Fortunately, there are a variety of tools and resources available to help developers make websites accessible. For example, automated accessibility testing tools can help identify potential issues with web accessibility, while assistive technology simulators can help developers understand how their websites might be experienced by people with disabilities.

While making websites compatible with assistive technology can require additional time and effort, it is an important step in promoting digital accessibility and ensuring that people with disabilities can access and participate in the online world.

Ultimately, the goal of both web accessibility and assistive technology is to create a more inclusive and accessible digital world for everyone. We hope you will join us on our mission toward an equal web.

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