2019 Review: AccessiBe Automatic Website Solution Accessibility Using AI

This blog post was updated on September 20, 2019.

You will not be accessible within 48 hours with AccessiBe because they’re not actually doing the remediation necessary to make a website accessible.

There is nothing on the market that can make your website accessible in two days. A toolbar overlay does not make your website accessible.

Also, there is no AI solution that makes your website accessible. We are years away from this taking hold. There is no product on the market remotely close to offering automated accessibility.

And if we were close – that AI solution would need to go in at the code level and edit your website. A toolbar overlay does not address your website’s actual accessibility and here’s a very fundamental and practical reason why: If a user doesn’t know to activate the toolbar overlay, then the inaccessible elements of your website remain.

Website accessibility requires manual remediation and only a small portion of accessibility issues can be handled with a scan. The toolbar Accessibe offers is only marginally helpful and is actually redundant for users of screen readers.

The good news is if you don’t make any dramatic changes to your website, manual remediation is a one-time price and not a recurring subscription.

If you have questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

Previously updated review:

I found AccessiBe.com when looking for AudioEye competitors and I was extremely skeptical upon first glance for two main reasons:

  1. They make they bold and impossible claim that they are the “only 100% automatic web accessibility solution”
  2. They cost $289 annually [UPDATE: Now $365 – June 12 UPDATE: Now $490 – This is very interesting as I was told this was not about the money for them yet they keep increasing their price point.] (vs. 5-figure starting range for most websites with AudioEye)

Nevertheless, I scheduled a demo to see what they were all about.  Below is my review.

First and foremost, they SHOULD NOT be claiming to make your website accessible within 2 days or whatever lightning fast turnaround because they cannot deliver that.

Significant manual remediation is almost always necessary to make a website actually accessible.

It seems like AccessiBe is trying to move in the right direction but website accessibility is not a quick fix – you can’t just paste some java code and have AI update your alt text and think you’ve got an accessible website.

If you’re a website owner just trying to figure out if this is a possible solution, let me just offer you this very flatly and quickly:

Installing AccessiBe basically amounts to putting a toolbar on your website that can make some adjustments of the website.  But it does not make the website itself accessible.  Moreover, many of the adjustments are already taken care of by screen readers for people who would most likely take advantage of said adjustments.

As for the demo, I talked to their Chief Technology Officer or CTO, Shir Ekerling.

I asked Shir who he thought their competitors are and he mentioned Level Access, UseableNet, and AudioEye with AudioEye being the only automated solution.  We both agreed that AudioEye was like a hybrid as they are part automation, part manual remediation.

Here’s a Q&A style outline of my review:

What are some of the differences between AccessiBe and AudioEye?

Price is a big one.  AudioEye is probably going to start at or near 5-figures annually for most companies.  AccessiBe.com states their cost is $289/year [Now $365].

Another huge one is AudioEye provides live accessible support on client websites – like as in actual chat and phone support.  AccessiBe does not.

An additional key difference is AccessiBe relies, to an extent, upon artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make websites more accessible.  To my knowledge, AudioEye isn’t here yet.

AccessiBe has not yet applied itself to native apps because they are coded using HTML 5.

How good is the AI?

Shir told me it takes care of 96% of accessibility issues (me: no, it doesn’t).  However, this is for certain website issues, not multi-media problems.  One service AccessiBe offers separately is creating transcripts and closed captioning for audio and video.  If you have significant audio and video, this will halt your path to accessibility as text transcripts and closed captioning is a large obstacle to becoming accessible.  Oh, and PDFs require a separate package too.

What is their approach?

Like AudioEye, Accessibe premises their product on WCAG 2.0.  Solid.

They then take care of the easy fixes, what Shir referred to as 30% of accessibility such as color contrast, font size, font families, and animations.  This all comes from their interface which is available for website users if you click on an icon (customizable on the client’s end).  Just like with AudioEye, users can customize how they want to experience the website.

Next, they run AI to fix the rest of the non-accessible elements on the website.

How long does it take to finish?

I believe Shir said 2-3 days.  It may have been 4.  Whatever it was, it was only a few days.  This marks another difference, because AudioEye is less automated, many of their remediation efforts take around 3-4 months; their website says usually less than 100 days.

AudioEye’s length of time is more in line with how long genuine remediation takes.

What about WCAG 2.1?

They said they’re working on it.

What’s something that impressed you?

AccessiBe’s image recognition ability is incredible.  They can scan images and automatically assign alt text to them.  The alt text is by no means perfect but it’s scary good.  The image recognition even extracts images of text and conveys that in the alt text – that’s huge, especially for companies that have hundreds, thousands, even millions of images.

I also liked they have worked with one of the JAWS (most popular screen reader) developers.

What is my impression?

They do not deliver website accessibility in a box – NOT EVEN CLOSE.  What you have to remember about automated accessibility providers is they are going to continue to get better as we move along but we are not at a point where a turnkey solution is possible.

Nice initiative but there is significant work to be done and they need to roll back on their claims of near instant accessibility.

Practically speaking,  Accessibe might be good in the sense that plaintiff’s law firms might see it and steer away but I can guarantee your inaccessible website elements, content, functioning does not automatically become accessible when you install Acccessibe.

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