Hillel's Tech Corner: SenseIT: Accessibility hits enterprises

Every large tech company on the planet is trying to solve this challenge of making our digital world accessible to everyone.

SenseIT. (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 When I started this column, I decided I’d focus on Israeli tech companies that are making the world a better place. Those were my only two criteria to write about a company, they need to be Israeli and impactful.
Over the past few hundred articles, we’ve covered Israeli companies in the cancer space, the mental health space, the hearing space, the vision space, the respiratory space, the autonomous car space, and so on and so forth. What I have not covered enough is the accessibility space.
It’s no secret that the Internet has fundamentally changed our world. I remember in high school doing an English test about reading comprehension. The topic was this futuristic thing called email that would replace regular mail. All I could think to myself was, “Well, that is never going to happen!” And here we are.
The Internet changed everything and our devices amplified that change. We have grown completely dependent on our phones, some might even say, addicted.
But what about the people who can’t access the Internet due to physical disabilities? What about the people who can’t use a regular mobile phone because it was not built for them? That’s where accessibility comes in.
Every large tech company on the planet is trying to solve this challenge of making our digital world accessible to everyone.
ENTER SENSEIT, an enterprise SaaS (Software as a service) platform for testing digital accessibility. The company uses test scripts generated by regular functional and usability frameworks and translates them into scripts that imitate how a person with a disability would use the product, such as keyboard only users and users that use assistive technologies.
SenseIT integrates with existing test scripts that companies already have, so there is no need to create new scripts specifically for accessibility.
SenseIT currently has a team of seven that is primarily focused on research and development.
The company already works with BrainPoP, OwnBackup, Jolt.io and some early partnerships with huge names that can’t be disclosed yet.
The company’s headquarters are in Israel and they also have a representative in New York to get the ground operations started for the next half of this year.
The company’s mission is pretty straight forward: To make accessibility accessible for the development cycle, aka to enable developers to release accessible code. In other words, at the development state of a website, app, or enterprise platform, the developer will now have the ability to make their code accessible to all.
The company was founded in late 2018 by Nadav Bernstein, a professional subject matter expert in digital accessibility, together with Tamar Schapira, a business professional and passionate entrepreneur. The two are also a couple.
SenseIT has been bootstrapped since day one as they believe this is the best way to go until the business gets to a point of ripeness that justifies an investment. Personally, I agree and think most start-ups should have this philosophy.
Prior to founding SenseIT, Bernstein owned an accessibility consulting firm where he worked with clients of all calibers in both the private and public sectors including Israeli government ministries, international hotel chains, and large enterprises. Bernstein focused on creating an impactful business as he believes you can build a big business and do good for the world. “Doing well by doing good!” It was his work with McCain Erickson that tipped the iceberg – he realized that manually testing every digital asset for his clients was inefficient and there must be a way to test automatically and more reliably.
Schapira stepped in with a passion to create something of impact after a close family friend had a terrible accident and he became quadriplegic. The thought that her friend couldn’t be independent on the Internet drove her crazy, and Schapira was in search for how we can ensure that all digital products are accessible, at all times. The challenge was that: You can’t just “set it and forget it” like a regular website. Digital accessibility needs to be worked on regularly, tested, remediated and monitored.
HANNIT COHEN joined the company in November 2020 to accelerate the development and product release. Cohen is a graduate of an elite IDF intelligence unit and held the role of CTO/VP R&D several times in her career. She is passionate for developing with accessibility as well as test-driven development.
The automated testing and remediation solutions that existed back in 2018 did not cover enough of the requirements. That is, the criteria set forth in the global standards (WCAG) that determine whether or not a digital product (website, web app, software system or mobile app) is accessible. This is especially true for large organizations that work on their digital accessibility, in house. For this audience, the solutions remain manual testing and remediation, post-production.
Of course, in an age where agile development prevails and automation tools for DevOps is rapidly increasing, accessibility cannot continue to be an “aftermath.” In fact, digital accessibility is not a one time remediation “project” that can be “fixed,” it is an ongoing process that should be integrated into the development cycle.
Digital accessibility is a niche field, governed by law in several countries that needs to be solved by developers who have no clue what the requirements are for “developing with accessibility.”
Until today, companies relied on automated validators that can scan web pages and report on approximately 30% of the requirements. The rest is left for manual testers. Companies hire manual testers to QA for accessibility post-production, which increases time to market and expenses.
In reality, companies have a bottleneck for their digital accessibility testing and seek scalable solutions to make this more efficient like any other automated testing they know to execute (i.e. functional testing, performance testing, etc).
With COVID-19 and the rise of accessibility laws worldwide, the need to test on an ongoing basis is prevalent.
Hence, companies are seeking more reliable, robust and accurate SaaS solutions that can test for accessibility as early on in the development cycle as possible. Thus, offering a cloud-based, enterprise grade testing and remediation solution is the way to go.
Let’s just say this: I’ve seen some of the companies in the pipeline, and if even half of them become SenseIT customers, this company has a very bright future.
By testing the user journey, SenseIT supports the business case for companies, i.e. the flows that are most important and relevant for the business process. The platform integrates with existing testing frameworks so that companies that are already setup with automated testing and automated DevOps processes can now integrate accessibility pre-production.
The potential target market is a culmination of verticals – test automation, programmatic cloud, and SaaS products. There are no scalable solutions on the market today to test for what SenseIT currently tests for.
The company is currently working on growing and expanding their customer base and enhancing their testing capabilities to replace the manual labor. More exciting, the platform will be available to test for mobile native apps coupled with a unique AI suggestion engine allowing developers to easily fix code, in real time and ensure accessibility prior to releasing the product.
The bottom line is that in the world of impact tech companies, it doesn’t get more meaningful than making our digital world accessible to all, thereby leveling the playing field.