While reviewing a new client’s site, I noticed that their chatbot widget was not accessible using the keyboard. By “chatbot widget”, I mean the icon in the lower right corner of the site that you click on to either get canned answers or speak to a live agent.
So, I did a bunch of research. There are tons of chatbot widgets and services out there, but only a very small number are accessible. Here are the ones I found:
Chatbots That Claim to be Accessible
Intercom is an enterprise-level chat solution that boasts over 25,000 customers including some huge companies like Meta, Atlassian, H&R Block, and Microsoft. They have a pretty cool blog article outlining how they made their Intercom Messenger accessible. Sure enough, I was able to navigate to the chat bot icon on their pages using the tab key (however, their home page did have other WAVE accessibility errors).
As of this writing, Intercom starts at $74/month, so it might be too expensive for small businesses. For more options, keep reading.
A more affordable accessible chatbot option is LiveChat, starting at just $20/month when billed annually. They claim that their chatbot is WCAG 2.1 AA compliant. Their bot is reachable using the keyboard, but like Intercom, their home page has other WAVE violations.
Another affordable chatbot solution is Olark, starting at $29/month. They claim their chatbot is WCAG 2.1 AA compliant. The chat widget on their home page is indeed reachable using the tab key and has good contrast. Their home page has only two WAVE errors, the least of any of the services I tested.
They seem to have a lot of universities as customers, which lends credence to their accessibility claims. They seem to take accessibility very seriously. Several folks in the WordPress Accessibility Facebook group that I belong to recommend Olark.
Zendesk Live Chat
Zendesk’s chat bot is keyboard accessible and seems to have accessible color contrast. Their accessibility statement indicates a commitment to WCAG 2.1AA.
Chatbots That Might be Accessible
emplify – Maybe??
I found another potential solution touted by this blog post, but was unable to confirm accessibility compliance for myself since the article references a product called “Astute Bot” from Astute Solutions, but links to a company called emplifi (which merged with Astute in 2021). On that website, there are no claims of accessibility and no demo to test. Pricing requires filling out a form – no thanks.
If you’re looking for an enterprise-level accessible chatbot solution, and want to leave no stone unturned, you may want to investigate this option further. If you do, let me know what you find out!
Hubspot has a chatbot that seems keyboard-accessible when I tested. There is also a community thread where they seem to be addressing accessibility issues. Here is some additional info on their progress on accessibility. While they may not be completely accessible, it seems they might be ahead of a lot of other chatbot companies, and they seem to at least listen and acknowledge the issues.
The Social Intents home page has only one WAVE error and the chat bot is usable using the keyboard. I couldn’t find any accessibility statement or claims though.
I hope this article was helpful to you. Let me know what solution you ended up using in the comments below! – Brian
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