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Courthouse-based company improving website accessibility for people with disabilities acquires Israeli startup

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A Courthouse-based company that aims to make websites more accessible has acquired another company in a deal valued at $99 million.

The deal between Level Access, of Arlington, and UserWay, a 7-year-old Israeli digital accessibility startup that went public on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange last year, was announced last week. The Times of Israel reported Level Access is paying $98.7 million to UserWay shareholders as part of a cash deal.

Founded 25 years ago by CEO Tim Springer, Level Access works to improve digital accessibility for people with disabilities by helping companies comply with an increasing number of regulations surrounding the accessibility of websites, smartphone apps and other digital experiences.

The acquisition of UserWay is the second such business maneuver in two years for Level Access, which merged with Toronto-based eSSENTIAL Accessibility in 2022.

Springer, who says he has spent and his entire career in accessibility, outlined in a lengthy LinkedIn post how incorporating the technology solutions UserWay offers will help Level Access realize improve accessibility across the digital landscape.

UserWay uses automation to make websites more accessible through the use of “overlays” — the same technology used to add pop-up cookie consent tools to virtually every website. These coding scripts automatically fix common accessibility issues and change the appearance and structure of a page to function better for people with disabilities, per Springer’s post.

Level Access CEO Tim Springer (courtesy photo)

The accessibility community, however, has historically criticized overlays for falsely promising a quick, easy, one-size-fits-all solution, he said.

Despite these misgivings, Springer says he has watched this controversial technology grow over the last two decades and today considers it “an amazing part of an overall solution for accessibility.”

“If we’re thoughtful and deliberate in their use — implementing overlays in an ethical fashion — we will drastically accelerate the timeline for the creation of an accessible digital world,” Springer said in his LinkedIn post. “We can remain mired in historical biases against these technologies or use them to accelerate the cause of accessibility. We choose the latter.”

The technology would be especially helpful for smaller website owners who do not have the funds or technical expertise to develop a comprehensive digital accessibility program, he said.

“Level Access can either provide a principled, compelling, cost-effective solution they can say ‘yes’ to today, and get started on accessibility, or keep doing little for these firms,” he said. “If we’re smart about it, that starting point will materially improve the accessibility of these sites today. Now. Not in ten years when they’re big enough to do it ‘right.’ Not when we’ve exhausted their desire to do the right thing with an approach they can’t take on.”

While the digital accessibility industry has seen many technologies come and go — some that worked and some that did not — the need for automated solutions is here to stay, Springer said.

“Millions of websites rely on automated remediation technology today, so this is clearly a requirement the market is demanding,” he said. “We’re excited to play a role in bringing that technology to organizations around the world in an effective, impactful fashion.”

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