Continuous Progress

Stark’s 2023 Access­ibility Year in Review

2023 was dominated by talk of AI, superconductors, and rapidly progressing technology. Meanwhile, accessibility was accelerating right along with us. Let’s review.

Explore the report


A year of continuous progress

2023 marked another year of continuous progress in the world of digital accessibility, a journey empowered by the transformative impact of AI.

As we strive for an inclusive world for disabled people, we recognize the path there requires a lot of hard work. It takes intentional effort to move technology and cultures in the right direction.

This report is a celebration of all the efforts poured in this year. It’s a celebration of you, and the small intentional steps taken as well as giant leaps you made to help move this space forward and improve people’s lives.

At Stark, our commitment is to meaningful progress through thoughtful, human-centric, and decisive action today over an elusive perfection tomorrow.

We recognize that our shared quest for a more accessible world is continuous. While technology advances and we embrace change, we can consciously and safely accelerate that progress.

As we mold society to better include people of all abilities, we have an opportunity to leverage powerful large language models and generative AI tools to make our digital experiences even more adaptive and human.

In this year’s review, we spotlight a diverse range of significant achievements for accessibility in gaming, entertainment, technology, government, and the workplace.

Milestones achieved by humans, powered by AI, embody the continuous progress we aspire to — not flawless, but profoundly transformative and immediate.

Game controller and gaming mouse illustration for gaming


2023 was a great year for accessible gaming. We consistently look to games for inspiration for accessible design and pioneering inclusive experiences. Let’s recap.

Sony’s Access Controller

Sony launched their Access Controller (previously codenamed Project Leondardo), a customizable controller kit for PlayStation 5, aimed at players with disabilities. You can essentially teardown and rebuild a controller specifically tailored to your own physical needs, enabling more comfortable gaming for everyone.

Not only that, but it also allows you to store button mapping profiles in case you prefer different setups for certain types of games. The Access Controller can be used alone or with other controllers and supports third-party accessibility devices.

Learn more
A Sony Dualsense controller with two Sony Access Controllers below it
A zoomed in view of the Sony Access Controller showing its ports
A Sony Access Controller is on the left with numerous button options shown in a starburst pattern

Access Controller and images ©2023 Sony Interactive Entertainment.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller settings screen is shown with the 'Configure' button highlighted
© Microsoft

Xbox Accessibility

The Xbox Adaptive Controller and Elite Series 2 received an update allowing players to remap controller buttons to nearly 90 keyboard keys. This is a massive win for gamers with limited mobility and dexterity.

Xbox also announced new accessibility updates including recognizing Craig Hospital’s Adaptive Gaming Program, introducing a guide for accessible gaming events, and a suite of new features to enhance game accessibility. Xbox also highlighted its Accessibility in Games channel in the store and the Xbox Ambassador Accessibility Explorer Path. Their report is jam-packed with accessibility goodies.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Nintendo’s new Super Mario Bros. Wonder contains several features that make the game more accessible for everyone. The game lets you remove time limits, offers multiple character options, and features “badges” that apply permanent power-ups to your character.

That’s already a lot, but that’s not all. When playing with others in multiplayer mode, friends can revive you, letting you pick up right from where you left off without losing any progress. Together, these features reduce the amount of physical exertion required to play and make the game drastically more accessible for disabled players.

A Super Mario Bros. Wonder screenshot with Mario and Luigi jumping over a gap
The Super Mario Bros. Wonder settings screen is shown with options for changing button combinations, motion controls, rumble, and more.
The Super Mario Bros. Wonder Badges are displayed in a grid format with the Parachute Cap action badge selected.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder ©2023 Nintendo

The accessibility wheelchair logo sits on top of numerous technology illustrations including a circuit board

AI & Accessibility in Gaming

Conversation around the impact and potential of AI was everywhere, and gaming was no exception. Over at IGN, Grant Stoner explores the question of what role AI might have in making future games more accessible.

Using his experience as a disabled player, Grant imagines everything from dynamic difficulties to AI-driven companion characters and deeply underscores the importance of developing AI alongside disabled individuals.

Ballot box illustration for politics


Progress in the public sector, no matter where you are in the world, can feel excruciatingly slow. Legal and political wins in favor of accessibility should always be celebrated. We all see you and your efforts.

Stacey Park Milbern awarded rare honor

Stacey Park Milbern, a disability rights activist, will be featured on U.S. quarters in 2025, making her the first Korean American to receive the honor. Milbern has made significant contributions to the disability rights movement; she was appointed by former President Barack Obama to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities and co-founded the Disability Justice Culture Club. Nothing quite hits as nicely as honoring amazing people in the disability community.

Stacey Park Milbern shown immortalized in coin form.

One of seven candidate designs proposed

The Department of Justice logo

The Justice Department proposes rules

The Justice Department proposed a new rule under the Americans with Disabilities Act to improve web and mobile app accessibility for people with disabilities. This rule would apply to all essential services provided by state and local governments across websites and mobile applications.

This proposed rule … will help enshrine the right of Americans with disabilities to access critical information needed to lead safe, productive, and prosperous lives.

– Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta

AI in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its guide on visual disabilities in the workplace. This update covers how the Americans with Disabilities Act applies, focusing on new technologies like AI and algorithms that affect employment decisions. It also discusses employers’ responsibilities for accommodating visual disabilities and preventing harassment and safety issues in the workplace. This is really important work and we’re ecstatic to see progress being made.

US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission logo
Popcorn and a drink with a straw illustration for entertainment


Captions and sign language interpreters are everywhere and we’re loving it. Both accommodations enable d/Deaf people to enjoy entertainment. It’s a win for everyone when entertainment is accessible.

Customize captions and chill

Netflix added the ability for TV viewers to customize the look of their captions.

Users can now adjust the size and style, choosing from three sizes (small, medium, large) and four styles/colors (default white, drop shadow, light, and contrast).

Previously only available to web users, these customization options enable 70% of Gen Z viewers and 50% of all viewers who watch shows and movies with subtitles on at all times to have a more adaptive and inclusive experience when watching on their big screens.

Read article
A Netflix show (Wednesday) with subtitles displayed with numerous options to change the size and style of the subtitles
© Netflix

ASL interpreting taking center stage

Justina Miles, the ASL interpreter at the Super Bowl halftime show, gained widespread acclaim for absolutely serving during her interpretation of Rihanna’s performance.

At 20 years old, she made history as the first deaf woman interpreter at the Super Bowl with an incredibly energetic pre-show and Rihanna set performance that captivated viewers and received immense praise online. Miles’ standout performance highlights the importance of making space for accessibility and how true representation benefits everyone.

Justina Miles signing during the Super Bowl halftime show
The ESPN+ logo

ESPN+ serves all new AI captions

Set, hike! ESPN+ and Disney have implemented a real-time Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) captioning system for their live sports content. This AI-driven technology provides accurate, near-real-time captions, reducing the delay and paraphrasing common in traditional captioning. This is a score for disabled sports fans everywhere.

Server illustration for technology


As we move forward it’s paramount to highlight the sort of progress being made that we want to nurture. Technology is uniquely positioned to move the needle for creating a world that is truly accessible for people of all abilities.

Walking with AI brain implants

Gert-Jan Oskam, previously paralyzed 12 years ago in an accident, has regained mobility in his legs thanks to a brain implant. Yeah, you read that right. Using machine learning, researchers observed Gert-Jan’s brain activity and mapped his intentions to electrode output.

This science fiction technology turned reality translates thoughts into movement in real-time. While this technology is still early and there remains a lot of work to be done to refine, expand, and improve it, it remains inspiring and exemplifies continuous progress.

Read article
Gert-Jan Oskam shown in a sweater sitting in a wheelchair close to a wall
© Rutger Pauw
A researcher is shown working on a computer with two brain scans shown on the screen
© Wimagine
Gert-Jan Oskam is standing up with his arms crossed and a brain monitoring device on his head
© Jimmy Ravier/EPFL

Apple continues to innovate

Apple, ever the champion of accessibility, launched new accessibility features leveraging AI and machine learning.

Live Speech empowers non-speaking individuals in conversations, Personal Voice creates individualized synthetic voices, and Point and Speak in Magnifier identifies objects and text in the real world for users with visual disabilities.

That’s not all; Point and Speak in Magnifier identifies objects and text in the real world for users with visual disabilities. These features only scratch the surface of all that was added and improved by Apple.

Read press release
The Dance Party screen is displayed with options for 'Heat Waves', 'The Drummer, and 'Blossom' shown
A phrases modal is overlayed on top of a video call showing the phrase `You weren't kidding about the view` and the iOS keyboard below that.
An iPad and two iPhones are shown with large icons for 'Music', 'Calls, 'Messages', and more shown on the devices

©2023 Apple

L’Oréal unveiled a motion stabilized makeup applicator

L’Oréal announced HAPTA, an AI-powered motion-stabilizing makeup applicator for individuals with mobility disabilities. HAPTA empowers everyone to engage in self-expression with confidence.

This showcases L’Oréal’s dedication to making beauty a universally accessible experience. We’re here for it.

Learn more
A person holding the HAPTA device
The HAPTA device with a lipstick applicator attached

© L’Oréal

2023 WebAim Million Study

Every year WebAIM analyzes the accessibility of the web's top 1 million homepages in the WebAim Million Study.

This year they found that landing pages are more complex than ever. Despite that, accessibility issues saw a decrease to an average of 50 accessibility errors per page – a 1.6% reduction.

WCAG violations also continue to trend downward. We have more work to do, but it’s important to celebrate the small wins. Give the full study a read for more awesome insights.

Read study

34% increase in page complexity since 2019

1.6% decrease in errors to an average 50 per page

29% increase in ARIA usage

.gov and .edu are the most accessible domains on average

Video conference illustration for workplace


British Vogue reframes fashion towards inclusivity and representation

Sinéad Burke has forever changed the fashion industry. The May 2023 edition of British Vogue “Reframing Fashion”, curated by Sinéad Burke and Tilting the Lens, celebrated disabled talent.

The portfolio features five covers with disabled fashion models, including Sinéad herself, but it doesn’t stop there.

This edition is available in braille and audio, a first for the magazine.

A seismic shift in an industry of this scale is a rare occurrence worth celebrating.

I often ask myself if the fashion industry has become more accessible over the past few years, or if it has just become more accessible for me. To create meaningful change, we must not design exceptions but pathways and pipelines.

– Sinéad Burke

Read article
A person sitting in front of a textured wall with a black floral dress on. The floral print shows yellow flowers with turquoise leaves and green stems.
A person standing in front of a blooming tree in a red dress with their arms outstretched.
Six people in standing and seated positions, all wearing a variation of white and black clothing.
A person sitting in a wheelchair with a black dress on. The dress is pleated at the top and has a long train shown draping in front of the wheelchair.
A person stands in front of a textuerd wall with stark lighting. They are wearing all black clothes except for white jacket.
A person is standing in front of a patterned metal grate in a form fitting black dress with heels. They are holding a cane in their right hand.

© Adam Jalloh / British Vogue

The NOD 2023 Leading Diability Employer logo

NBCUniversal recognized for their workplace inclusivity

NBCUniversal was named a 2023 Leading Disability Employer by the National Organization on Disability. This recognition is given to companies that demonstrate positive outcomes in recruiting, hiring, retaining, and advancing people with disabilities in their workforce. The impact doesn't stop with their employees; NBCUniversal’s dedication to accessibility shows up across their organization. This is the type of continuous progress we love to see.

Ringed planet and stars illustration for space

Stark Community

The Stark Community has been out there hustling. In this year alone, here’s the impact we made together.

020Mdesign elements scanned, and 3 million accessibility issues identified by Sidekick.

Sidekick users have 25% less accessibility issues on average.

010Mcontrast checks in design files

07Mcode elements scanned, and 1 million issues found of which 45% required manual review.

0162countries Stark is being used in.

The United States, India, UK, France & Germany lead the Top 5.

033Kcompanies using Stark

What an exhilarating year it’s been. With the help of our customers, Stark has grown into a complete platform to proactively manage digital accessibility – from design to code and live product – at the speed of modern software development. And we’re just getting started!

  • Sidekick AI Assistant

  • Stark Web App

  • Real-time reports

  • Stark for Developers

  • Compliance Center

  • New vision simulations

  • WCAG audit

  • All free manual tools

  • + more

Trophy with the Stark logo illustration for Stark award

The 2023 Stark Award goes to...


by ASDC and Hello Monday

A screenshot of the website. The website shows a hand in the center of the screen and text asking whether the user is right or left handed

Fingerspelling is an interactive learning tool by The American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC), designed and built in conjunction with Hello Monday(opens in a new tab). Meshing innovative machine learning technology, thoughtful design, and inclusivity, Fingerspelling helps you learn the English alphabet in American Sign Language (ASL) in an intuitive, fun, and truly educational way.

Founded in 1967, the ASDC provides resources for parents of children who are Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing. Their mission is to prevent language deprivation, ensuring that every Deaf child can learn sign language from the start. Fingerspelling is a beautiful manifestation of that mission.

The website showing a hand in the center of the screen and text asking the user to spell the letter L
The website showing a hand in the center of the screen and text asking the user to spell the word Onyx

Fingerspelling’s hand tracking leverages MediaPipe by Google(opens in a new tab), an on-device machine learning framework. Visual indicators from MediaPipe immediately tell you if you’re making the correct hand shape. The coolest thing? Instead of just telling you your hand shape is wrong, it highlights which specific fingers aren’t in the right position.

See you next year!