Accessible Chatbot Hits the Market

Woman holding iPhone with chat bubbles and text layered on top

New Accessible Chatbot Arrives in Time for Businesses Going Virtual

Digital accessibility is now more important than ever, as businesses and consumers worldwide rely on technology to stay connected during physical distancing measures.

Companies across industries are seeking ways to communicate with customers while their physical locations are closed to the public due to COVID-19. Call centers are getting slammed, and hold times are escalating. As the pandemic widens, even more companies are likely to start integrating chatbots into their customer service systems.

What’s So Exciting About an Accessible Chatbot?

Until now, it has been difficult – if not impossible – to find an accessible chatbot. The problem with inaccessible third-party apps like chatbots is twofold. They make it more difficult for people with various impairments to use a website, and often, these third-party technologies are sources of legal risk for businesses.

The Astute Bot, introduced in March 2020 complete with a VPAT 2.3 INT to communicate its accessibility, solves both of these issues. It makes digital customer self-service a viable option for more companies and users. It’s an exciting and valuable step toward barrier-free products that enhance user interactions, increase conversions, and minimize legal risk for the companies that use their products.

The celebratory launch of the Astute Bot is paramount given the new reality of what qualifies as “business as usual”. While everyone always deserves equal online access, the reality is that now accessing online services is almost the only option since physical customer service is not possible.

Meaning and Impact of the VPAT “Supports” Conformance Level

The VPAT 2.3 INT “Supports” conformance level signals accord to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 Level A), EN 301 549, and Section 508 Standards, which establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal government.

Here’s what having a “Supports” level in  the VPAT means for businesses and their customers:

  1. The functionality and experience of the technology is available to people with (or without) impairments and it operates consistently via various assistive technologies
  2. More people will be able to use and benefit from the technologies
  3. The product is eligible as a solution for use by or for the US Federal Government
  4. The companies offering these technologies have a competitive advantage with this leadership position relative to digital accessibility

Celebrating Success: The Astute Bot Launch

The Astute Bot is one of the first accessible chatbots in the market. The technology developer, Astute, partnered with the ilumino team to test and document the chatbot’s conformance with the international and WCAG standards and issue the VPAT 2.3 INT document. We did this through a combination of manual and automated processes and code-level remediation.

We’re thrilled that Astute recognizes that accessible websites are the tip of the iceberg; that apps and third parties integrated with those sites need to be inclusive as well. By taking this decisive action to make their chatbot compliant, they share a common belief with us that everyone deserves an equal digital experience.

Now, it will be easier for all consumers to access information through digital self-service interactions or chat with a live agent. Astute tells us they’re also planning to upgrade their Astute Agent – a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) specializing in customer service – later this year to make the software accessible for its customers’ employees who have disabilities.

As a leading provider of AI- and machine-learning-based software solutions that enable companies to manage the customer experience, Astute is focused on the technology-based pain points that companies face when engaging with consumers. Astute President Alex George affirms, “Our customers have consumers’ best interests in mind, and they want to make the online journey as inclusive as possible. We’re working to support their efforts by making our software conform to today’s gold standard for accessibility.”

We applaud this development and look forward to all that’s yet to come!

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