This installment of our Accessibility Activists column is an interview with Tim Springer, CEO of Level Access. He also led the development of InFocus, the first commercial software for testing web accessibility.
When did you first get started in accessibility?
In 1999. The initial business plan for what became Level Access was to build a website for accessible travel. The idea was people with disabilities could go to the site, get information about accessible venues and plan accessible vacations. In building that site we came upon the idea of digital accessibility. At the same time, our niche market for the site we had built got really crowded. So we executed what you would now call a pivot and moved from making one web site accessible — what we were building — to making all sites accessible — by providing tools, training and consulting on accessibility, which is what the company is focused on now.
What inspired you to create InFocus?
As noted above, we had built accessibility into a site and the process sucked. There weren’t any developer tools that would support the creation and deployment of accessible code. So our view was, “There has got to be a better way.” As we looked at other tools on the market — anybody remember Bobby? — we saw various material limitations with each of them. So we decided that we needed to build our own.
You have been a leader in the field of digital accessibility for nearly two decades. What are some notable changes you have witnessed?
The biggest change is that organizations actually care about accessibility now. When I first started, accessibility was considered nice-to-have at best. Now accessibility is viewed as a key requirement to take an asset live in most of the enterprises we work with. So the fact that this is now a requirement has driven a lot of changes in the market.
What is a major accessibility barrier you would like to see solved?
Solid monitoring data for assets — pre-production and production. We see a big business problem in how organizations monitor the large, amorphous set of publicly available assets (“stuff”) throughout the development lifecycle. Having a secure, scalable approach to doing that is key to scaling up accessibility and proving out return on investment for accessibility.