Digital Accessibility & Your Small Business: Updates and Next Steps

May 18 was Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2023, a day to raise awareness and promote digital inclusion for people with disabilities. Many tech companies announced new features and updates to make their products and services more accessible for everyone. 

Here are some of the highlights:

- Microsoft has added improvements to Microsoft 365 by providing administrators with the option to enable an accessibility baseline for all Office users, which ensures that their content is accessible for people with disabilities to read and edit

- Google has added a new feature within their Lookout app called “image question and answer,” which provides a description of the image whether it has alt text or not. 

They have also expanded Google Maps to show places accessible to everyone and expanded Live Captions to include more languages and devices. 

They have improved accessibility with Google Chrome for users with dyslexia, language learners, and anyone who makes typos by detecting URL typos and suggesting websites based on the corrections. 

- Apple previewed new features for improved cognitive, speech, and vision accessibility which will be available later this year and shared a Youtube playlist showcasing all the accessibility features in the Apple ecosystem. 

- Facebook has improved its automatic alternative text (AAT) feature, which generates descriptions for images and videos posted on its platform. AAT now uses advanced machine learning to recognize more objects, scenes, actions, and concepts in visual content and provide more detailed and accurate descriptions. 

These are just some of the latest updates announced by tech companies for Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2023.  

What can small businesses do to make their businesses digitally accessible? Here are some easy steps to follow:

- Scan your content with the Microsoft Office accessibility checker to identify and fix any accessibility issues

- If your small business has a presence on Twitter, enable the alt check reminder in accessibility settings to ensure all uploaded images have alt text before they are tweeted.

Add alt text to images created with Canva

- For small businesses with websites on Wix, Wix provides an accessibility wizard which scans your website, identifies any fixes to make your site more accessible and provides guidance on how to fix them.

- For WordPress sites, ensure that you are choosing an accessibility-ready theme for your website and exploring accessibility plugins that can help identify and fix any accessibility issues on your website

- Test your website and apps with different devices, browsers, screen readers, and keyboard navigation. This can help you identify and fix any accessibility issues or barriers preventing some customers from accessing your content or services.

By following these steps, you can make your business more accessible and inclusive for everyone.