The web was meant to be open for everyone. But for some of us, who have any sort of disability, it more often than not isn’t so. Wix’s Head of Accessibility, Nir Horesh, shares our vision of making the Web a place where everyone can equally take part
The world we live in isn’t accessible to everyone in the same way. Whether it’s a blind man trying to navigate a busy crossroad, an elderly woman struggling to read tiny letters on a screen, or a person on a wheelchair facing a rampless entry to a building. People with disabilities are everywhere.
Most of the hardships they face in their day to day lives aren’t caused by bad people. They happen because most people just don’t give enough thought to issues they’re not familiar with.
The same goes for the non physical world. People with disabilities are users of the Internet just like anybody else. However, for them - not everything is accessible. In recent years, Wix has built the technology to allow every Wix site to be accessible. And this year, we launched a new tool for our own users - the Accessibility Wizard - to give them the ability and the knowledge to make their sites accessible.
Nir Horesh, Wix’s Head of Accessibility, says that Wix’s immediate mission regarding accessibility is to make it easy for anyone to create an accessible website. “We do however have an even deeper mission than that and that is to turn the Internet into a place anyone can enjoy, no matter their ability. What we want is to allow anyone to have the best user experience possible”.
“The most important reason behind accessible websites is inclusion. We want everyone to be able to reach any website and not to leave anyone on the sidelines because of their disability or because of a situation they’re in. About 17% of the population has a disability of some sort at a given point in their lives. That’s 1 out of 6 people and that’s a lot! We should also add elderly people to this number. They may not have a disability per se, but they do have special needs and require assistance. We even have to think about situational disability - people with injuries, parents who are holding a baby in one hand and need to be able to do things with the other one, people in a noisy bar who can’t hear voice messages or the audio on videos or anyone who’s driving and obviously can’t red and text, for example. We have to think about all these types of people and provide them with solutions”.
Check out this video to learn more about the importance of accessible websites and online businesses
“In a perfect world, you’d have fully accessible websites as soon as you’d create them. In reality though, we have to help our users in many ways and most lately with the Accessibility Wizard we created. We ensure that all components users add to their websites are accessible. We ensure that all products developed by the Wix’s different vertices - Events, Stores, Bookings, Blog you name it - are accessible when you add them to your website. We add features that allow users to have more accessible sites and many times do it as the default option. That’s using the power of your platform in a good way because I truly believe that with great power comes great responsibility and it also creates opportunities for our users".
Horesh says that the Accessibility Wizard project spanned over a year. “We managed to explain the need for this Wizard to Wix’s management from the very beginning and as result we were encouraged to work fast. Our CEO, Avishay Abrahami, was quite blunt about it. He told me ‘We can’t have people not able to use our products. It’s just not acceptable, so we’re going to fix it’".
According to Horesh, the effort to create the Wizard demanded lots of internal collaboration between different groups across Wix. “We had about 10 of our people working on this directly, but we partnered with almost all the other parts of Wix. We’ve worked with UX Designers and writers to make anything as clear as possible; With the Editor platform people who helped integrate the Wizard seamlessly with their product, and with Knowledge Base Writers who had to write instructions that anyone understands. Dozens of different people”, he says.
For business owners, there are additional reasons to make their sites accessible. First, there’s the business side of things. Horesh explains that “there are a lot of people with disabilities and if your website isn’t accessible to them. They won’t be able to use it. They won’t be able to buy the product that you’re selling, or to read the content that you’re writing. Another reason is legal. There are laws and regulations that require websites to be accessible and website owners need to meet those regulations. “Creating awareness of the importance of building accessible sites is a large part of having people do it”.
Making your Wix site accessible in 3 easy steps:
The complexity behind the simple wizard
"Since our platform allows our users a lot of creative freedom - drag & drop, choosing colors and texts and images - we can’t make everything accessible automatically. Take the Alt Text feature for example. Alt Text is an unseen text that accompanies an image, and that will enable people with a vision impairment to listen to the site’s content.
"In terms of context, there’s a huge difference between the end result of an algorithm captioning an image as “two elderly people, and a human identifying these people as “Grandpa Solomon and Grandma Rebecca”. Both are accurate, but anyone can see that they’re completely different.
"To be defined as accessible you also have to provide a certain contrast between text and background that’ll make it easier for people to read it. It’s true for people with visual impairment but also for anyone else. When we provide users with templates for example, they all have accessible color contrasts. But even if the user does everything on their own, we created the Accessibility Wizard to help them and indicate the colors they should use. It scans their sites and tells them exactly what they need to do in order to make the website accessible, and we try to help them do most of it in real time - as they’re building their sites”.
Did the Accessibility Wizard have an impact on the number of accessible sites on the Wix platform?
“Oh yeah. In the past, less than 2 percent of users who began a manual checklist process to make their sites accessible completed it. Now, with the combination of our automated tools and the help during the site’s building process, these numbers have risen more than tenfold. Since we created our new Accessibility Wizard ability, our users make their sites accessible with it at a rate of about 40K issues that are being resolved by it every week. What I love about all that is that because of Wix’s reach, we create a huge impact on the entire Web”.
What does the future hold for accessibility at Wix?
“I can’t reveal everything that we’re working on these days, but I can say that we’re making a huge effort in what we call ‘accessibility by design’. The idea behind it is to approach products from the very beginning - the research and planning stages - with accessibility in mind and to incorporate it into our culture”.