This Company Tapped AI for Its Website
Then, it ended up in court
Last year, Anthony Murphy, a visually impaired man who lives in Erie, Pennsylvania, visited the website of eyewear retailer Eyebobs using screen reader software. Its synthesized voice attempted to read out the page’s content, as well as navigation buttons and menus. Eyebobs used artificial intelligence software from Israeli startup AccessiBe that promised to make its site easier for people with disabilities to use. But Murphy found it made it harder.
AccessiBe says it can simplify the work of making websites accessible to people with impaired vision or other challenges by “replacing a costly, manual process with an automated, state-of-the-art AI technology.” In a lawsuit filed against Eyebobs in January, Murphy alleged that the retailer failed to provide people using screen readers equal access to its services and that the technology from AccessiBe—not party to the suit—doesn’t work as advertised.
In October, Eyebobs agreed to a settlement in which it denied Murphy’s allegations but agreed to hire an accessibility consultant to help overhaul its website and mobile apps and dedicate staff to the issue. Like many AI startups, AccessiBe markets its technology as cheaper than paying humans. Eyebobs now must pay people anyway, by court order.
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