July 26 marked the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which promotes equality and protects the rights of those with disabilities. AudioEye, headquartered here in Tucson, is a technology company that helps businesses comply with the ADA, and in turn, make the internet more accessible for all.
“It is our mission to ensure every single person has equal access to online content,” said Todd Bankofier, CEO of AudioEye. “That’s why AudioEye was created; for individuals with disabilities, the web is broken.”
Bankofier uses the term “broken” to refer to the unfair disadvantage those with disabilities have to the internet due to lack of accessibility.
For example, if a person who is blind relies on a screen reader to navigate online content, and that content isn’t coded with assistive technology in mind, that user cannot seamlessly access the information.
“That’s where our purpose comes in,” he said. “We firmly believe that equal access is the right of every individual, so we’ve created a company that utilizes technology and subject matter expertise to make digital content accessible for all.”
The company was founded not just as a result of passion, but from personal experience.
“My brother and I founded AudioEye in 2005 shortly after he was diagnosed with a degenerative disease in his right eye,” said Sean Bradley, co-founder, chief strategy officer and president of AudioEye. “Through that experience, we started to wonder how individuals who have lost their sight navigate the internet. From that curiosity, we created the company.”
Some of the disabilities on which AudioEye focuses are visual, motor, cognitive and hearing. To create a more accessible online experience for those with such disabilities, AudioEye creates websites, PDFs and more that accommodate the needs of those being underserved.
In addition, AudioEye’s technology allows users to control websites using verbal commands, reformats websites to be more accessible and automatically reads aloud the text on any website.
“The AudioEye solution is as simple as embedding a single line of code on a client’s site,” Bankofier said. “From there, we do the rest. With that code embedded, our technology begins auto remediation — automatically fixing errors. This is a continuous process because websites are dynamic. Owners are continuously updating their site content, and our solution continuously ensures that content is accessible.”
AudioEye even includes the “AudioEye Trusted Certification” on websites with which they work. Bankofier said the certification represents “a commitment to accessibility and digital inclusion, indicating to visitors the site is in compliance with ADA-related regulations and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines."
The company makes sure to collaborate with those who promote inclusivity. Some of the organizations they’ve worked with are the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, the Lighthouse for the Blind, the Blind Veteran’s Association and the Southern Arizona Association for the Visually Impaired.
Those who haven’t made their website more inclusive when it comes to accessibility might not know how, and Bankofier understands that.
“Making digital content accessible can often feel like a costly, time-consuming, very manual effort. Organizations often think they have to hire a team of developers and re-build their site from scratch,” Bankofier said. “That’s daunting, and it’s simply not the case.”
He has a call to action for those without the resources or knowledge.
“My hope is that more business leaders will take time to better understand web accessibility and the simplicity involved in making your website available to all those who come to it,” Bankofier said. “I believe our decisions can either be those of inclusion or exclude the millions of people with disabilities. I choose inclusion every time.”
Ambur Wilkerson is a University of Arizona journalism graduate student and Inside Tucson Business intern.