I began covering digital accessibility for Forrester over five years ago, and I feel like all of my research has led to this moment. Technology is a critical ingredient for scaling accessibility practices, monitoring organizational progress, and driving culture change. I’ve been prepping for a detailed evaluation of this technology market for some time, and I’m excited to announce that The Forrester Wave™: Digital Accessibility Platforms, Q4 2023, is now live!

What Is The Focus Of This Research?

Following our recent research on The Digital Accessibility Platforms Landscape, Q2 2023, this report showcases our evaluation of eight digital accessibility platform vendors. Forrester defines a digital accessibility platform (DAP) as:

Platforms used by companies to identify accessibility issues, facilitate remediation of issues, and monitor and report on the accessibility of their digital experiences.

We evaluated each vendor’s strategy as well as its current offering. In evaluating each vendor’s current offering, we looked at five key capability areas:

  • Tools for experience makers. What tools does the vendor offer for developers, testers, and content authors to test for and fix accessibility issues as part of their workflows?
  • Testing. What capabilities exist for automated and manual testing, policy configuration, mobile testing, and testing with end users with disabilities?
  • Remediation. How does the platform support users in understanding and remediating accessibility issues?
  • Monitoring and reporting. What data is provided to help an organization understand its overall progress on accessibility and to monitor and report on compliance?
  • Platform. How intuitively do the components of the platform come together into a unified experience? How strong is the platform’s user experience and accessibility? What embedded learning and integrations are available?

Organizations use this research to select the right provider for their needs and get ideas for criteria that they should consider when selecting a partner. Vendors use this research to improve their strategies and get a view into where the market is headed.

Which DAP Vendor Is Right For Me?

The providers we evaluated vary in their focus. Some providers focus on enabling teams to prevent accessibility issues from happening in the first place. Others focus on addressing the heavy remediation lift that many companies face. While some providers focus squarely on accessibility, others offer accessibility capabilities as part of a broader digital content quality solution.

In my research, I noticed that clients are moving away from reactive “let’s launch it and fix it later” approaches to accessibility and toward proactive approaches aimed at embedding accessibility into digital product design and development. To support such a shift, companies should look for digital accessibility platform providers that:

  • Suit your organization’s current level of accessibility maturity. In 2023, enterprises are at varying states of accessibility maturity. Some want to effectively outsource the work to a vendor, while an increasing percentage are ready to embed accessibility into every phase of digital product design and development. Enterprise buyers at lower stages of maturity should look for a provider that can do the heavy lifting now but has features — in its current offering or on the roadmap — to support your company in shifting to a proactive approach as your company matures. Mature buyers should look for providers with: (A) strong tooling for and integrations with systems used by designers, developers, content authors, and testers and (B) robust analytics for monitoring and reporting on accessibility progress at an organizational level and for understanding the top concerns to address in the company’s products.
  • Make platform user experience a priority. DAP buyers should view a solution’s user experience (UX) as a differentiating factor. A platform’s UX strongly impacts the extent to which the solution is adopted across an enterprise. Low adoption simply perpetuates inaccessible experiences. Look for platforms with strong embedded education that explains in plain language what accessibility issues mean, who is impacted by them, and how to address the issue. Depending on your organization’s comfort level with using recommendations generated by large language models, consider looking at providers that are currently using, or have plans to use, generative AI to create more specific remediation suggestions for users. Whether you have an in-house accessibility team or not should be considered here — platforms that assume a knowledge of accessibility may be fine if an accessibility team is at the helm, but if not, look for a platform that is easy to use for non-experts, as well.
  • Offer features, services, and/or partnerships to engage people with disabilities. It’s surprising how many organizations have executive commitments to digital accessibility but aren’t gathering feedback from users with disabilities. As the disability rights slogan reminds us, “Nothing about us without us.” If you’re like most organizations and don’t yet have feedback channels established, look for a DAP vendor that will help bring this voice into your product design and development process. Some DAP vendors have their own panels of consumers with disabilities that you can tap into through product features, such as requesting a user test. Others have usability testing services. Many have partnerships with disability groups and can facilitate making these connections for you.

Read the full Wave evaluation: The Forrester Wave™: Digital Accessibility Platforms, Q4 2023. If you’re a Forrester client, be sure to download the full Wave scorecard (the Excel attachment) to dig into the scores for each vendor and understand what those scores mean. You can customize weightings based on your buying needs. This allows you to see how each vendor scored in the criteria most important to you. If you’d like to ask me questions or work through your buying decision, I am here for you! Set up a conversation with me. You can also follow or connect with me on LinkedIn if you’d like.

A Final Note

I would like to acknowledge and thank all the participating vendors in this research. Participating in a Forrester Wave is a significant time investment, and we appreciate the effort that you put into this process. I appreciate the work you all do to further digital accessibility, and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with all of you in the coming years.