I’ve just returned from maternity leave and am excited to dive back into my role covering digital accessibility for Forrester. Why am I so excited? Well, a lot happened in the five months I was out that signals to me the growing importance of creating experiences that are accessible to all. Here’s my take on a few recent developments.

Recent Investments And Mergers Point To The Growing Importance Of Digital Accessibility Testing Tools

  • Accessibility technology vendor Evinced announced $38 million in Series B funding. For comparison, Figma (which Adobe just purchased for $20 billion) had a $25M Series B funding round back in 2018. Evinced uses AI and machine learning to automatically detect accessibility issues early in the development process, and that’s smart! It’s aligned with what clients I speak with are looking for. Investor interest in the company signals to me an understanding that automation has a critical role to play in enabling teams to create more accessible experiences, not in attempting to automatically remediate sites after the fact, which is a flawed approach, as I discussed in an earlier blog post.
  • Research platform Fable raised $10M in a Series A funding round to pursue its goal of “[making] inclusive product development the status quo.” Clients I speak with who are savvy in this space know and love Fable for its ability to connect them with people with disabilities for product research. I’m optimistic about the future of Fable because it fulfills a long-standing, unmet need of product teams: a quick way to tap into the disability community for feedback.
  • In August, two of the big players in the space, Level Access and eSSENTIAL Accessibility, merged (press release here). This is a smart move for both organizations. Brands getting accessibility right understand that it requires both (a) the high-touch approach brought by consultancies like Level Access to define a strategy and integrate accessibility into existing business processes with (b) technology to help power accessibility at scale across the organization. I expect that the merger will lead to other vendors doubling down on efforts to expand offerings in these two areas.

North American Governments Make Efforts To Clarify And Enable Compliance With Accessibility Regulations

  • Canada appointed its first Chief Accessibility Officer, Stephanie Cadieux. Many in the government are already working hard to implement the Accessible Canada Act and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. But appointing a CAO signals a desire to bring more cohesion and oversight to the work at the federal level. With the bold goal of making Canada barrier-free by 2040, the appointment makes sense and, if successful, could be a model for other governments (such as the US) to adopt, as well.
  • Here in the US, I was excited to see a bill introduced last week by Senator Duckworth and Representative Sarbanes that would require the Department of Justice to clarify the accessibility requirements for websites and apps and provide resources to help businesses achieve those requirements. For years now, businesses have struggled due to a lack of clarity on how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to digital applications, leaving it to the courts to decide on a case-by-case basis. This is a persistent problem (at least since 2005, when I started working in the field), so I’m only cautiously optimistic that this bill will move forward and bring the clarity that so many desire.

Adobe’s Acquisition Of Figma Will Address A Key Gap In Figma’s Product Strategy

My colleagues Sheila and David recently blogged about Adobe acquiring Figma. While this news bodes well for collaboration in and beyond design, I’m most excited to see how the Figma product benefits from Adobe’s deep history of focusing on digital accessibility and inclusive design. Though Figma announced progress in its accessibility efforts (a prototype screen-reader beta) in May, surprisingly, this work wasn’t a focus for the design powerhouse until recently. If it can benefit from Adobe’s investments in inclusive design, the company may finally live up to its mission of “making design accessible to all” in the more literal sense.

Do you have questions or thoughts on these topics? If you’re a client, schedule a guidance session or inquiry with me. If you’re an accessibility vendor, set up a briefing. And as always, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

What’s next for me? On my research agenda so far is a Forrester Landscape report, followed by a Forrester Wave™ evaluation on digital accessibility testing tools — look for that in 2023. In the meantime, keep an eye on my blog for other new research in this space.