Making chatbots accessible

Chatbots are everywhere online customer service is necessary. However, few are accessible to people with disabilities.

Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC
4 min readJun 21, 2021


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Anything a company can shift from an employee to a computer saves them money. That is why many retail companies are now using chatbots to answer simple questions to facilitate sales without having to involve humans who get a paycheck..

A chatbot is a piece of software that runs on either a mobile device or desktop, which companies use to conduct online chat conversations via text or text-to-speech, instead of providing direct contact with a live human agent.

  • With a well crafted chatbot, sometimes it’s difficult for users to tell if they are talking to a human or a computer.
  • Most chatbots provide the ability to transfer from the computer to a human when the ability of the chatbot information is exhausted.

Many people with hearing loss prefer to use chatbots because it reduces or eliminates the need to have a voice conversation to complete a transaction. For that population, having a chatbot is a more accessible form of getting information.

However, as companies have reduced customer support staff and replaced them with chatbots, many blind individuals and individuals with motor dexterity issues are finding chatbots the only way to communicate for support. If they aren’t accessible, well, those customers are out of luck.

For a chatbot to be completely accessible, the following areas must be reviewed.

The chatbot response authoring interface

Every chatbot has some type of interface where keywords can be logged and automatic answers are provided.

For example, if the chatbot sees the word “shipping” the response might be, “please give us your order number so we can tell you the status of your shipment” or something like that.



Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC

LinkedIn Top Voice for Social Impact 2022. UX Collective Author of the Year 2020. Disability Inclusion SME. Sr Staff Accessibility Architect @ VMware.