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DeepL improves its accessibility. Global Accessibility Awareness Day: May 19, 2022

How DeepL is improving its accessibility

May 19 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The GAAD foundation strives to ensure accessibility is integral in the development of digital products. At DeepL, accessibility is not a project, but rather an ongoing process and commitment to increasing our product usability for billions worldwide.

DeepL’s commitment to accessibility 

DeepL follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the Web Accessibility Initiative to improve accessibility on its site pages. Some of the most pertinent guidelines we follow include: 

  • Providing text alternatives for images 
  • Considering screen size and font sizes 
  • Enabling site functionalities with keyboard usage 
  • Structuring content for easy navigation 
  • Maintaining consistency across site pages 

A significant step toward a fully accessible digital product is optimizing the web translator for keyboard usage, with no mouse required. Users can tab through navigation links and conduct translations using only keystrokes.

We also focus heavily on visual accessibility, optimizing for the use of screen readers. Screen readers such as NVDA and VoiceOver recite words from web pages to assist users in following the text and in navigating the site. 

Lastly, we pay close attention to copy across product descriptions, navigation menus, and blog posts on our site. We value clear and concise language, with uncomplicated sentence structures. Our style guide includes rules such as:  

  • Limited use of italics  
  • Easy-to-read headings  
  • Limited use of characters such as ampersands, which create difficulties for screen readers 

Recent website changes have come on the heels of an important partnership with Fable, whose testing platform identified problem areas we have improved upon. 

Accessibility testing with Fable Engage

Fable Engage enables teams to connect with people with disabilities remotely and on-demand to accelerate user research, design, and development. Feedback from accessibility testers provides invaluable information for companies looking to identify problems and to improve accessibility.

Fable rates digital products using the Accessible Usability Scale (AUS). The score is calculated through a series of questions answered by accessibility testers, who assess sites on compatibility with accessibility technologies, complexity of site navigation, and ease of use without outside assistance. The AUS uses a 1–100 scale, with 100 as the top rating. Since partnering with Fable, DeepL has dramatically improved its accessibility metrics. During our first test, we scored a 70. Using the test results, we got to work to improve the site, namely changing the tab order on the web translator, and clarifying button labels... in our subsequent Fable tests, we scored 90. 

Making improvements 

First, we improved the “focus-visible state” to make it easier for users who navigate via keyboard to see which element they are interacting with. The new focus state meets the AAA standards from the WCAG: 

Illustration of improved focus state on a button, with thicker border around the Start Free Trial button.

We then improved the labeling of all the translator components, both visually and for screen readers, so that anyone can identify the element they are interacting with: 

Illustration of improved Share Translation icon, with the words Share Translation populating above the icon.

Finally, we enabled translator usage at a higher zoom setting, so people who need a larger text size can have a quality translation experience:

Screenshot of the web translator at a high zoom setting, that makes it easier to read and does not distort the page.

After making these vital improvements to the site, we received promising feedback from an accessibility tester who spent time with the web translator:

“I really like this website. I’ve never used it before, but it worked really well. It was easy to tell which language was selected as a source language and which language was selected as a target language. It was really easy to find the different languages, and then change them. So, I really enjoyed this, it is an awesome website.”

These improvements are carried over into our new mobile web release, which scored an 80. We’re continuing to partner with Fable to ensure improvements over time, and that we keep raising the bar among AI companies when it comes to digital accessibility.

Next steps

DeepL is continuously making site and app improvements, with the goal of achieving a global WCAG 2 standard. This standard sets specific accessibility guidelines we’ll comply with as we further develop our products. We’re currently focusing on optimizing the desktop and mobile websites for keyboard and screen reader usage.  To learn more about Global Accessibility Day and its commitment to accessibility in the digital realm, visit the GAAD foundation’s official website. DeepL will continue to update its users on accessibility improvements.