By Sara Miller, NoCamels -
An Israeli tech firm that enables companies to make their websites and apps accessible for people with disabilities is offering its services for free to Israel’s government bodies and other key institutions during the war against Hamas in Gaza.
Tens of thousands of Israelis have been internally displaced since Hamas terrorists stormed across the border from Gaza into the country’s southern communities and towns on October 7, killing at least 1,200 people and abducting hundreds more.
Subsequent missile attacks from Hamas ally Hezbollah in Lebanon to the north also led to the evacuation of thousands more Israelis living close to the Lebanese border.
In wartime, vital information such as the location of healthcare facilities or even bomb shelters is provided online, and finding it can be challenging or even impossible for people with disabilities who require digital accessibility.
In reality, that translates to one fifth of all internet users, User1st founder and CEO Ben Rosanes tells NoCamels.
“This information needs to be accessible for everyone and this is what people tend to disregard completely because nobody has the time [or] willingness,” he says.
“What about the 20 percent of the population who are dependent for their survival on that information being accessible?”
User1st fits its artificial intelligence-based code into the existing source code of a website or app, transforming it into a platform with full digital accessibility – meaning it can be used by anyone with a range of disabilities, including visual, cognitive, motor and auditory.
“We developed a toolkit that basically gives the ability to control each and every component on the website,” Rosanes says. “Our main focus is first and foremost digital inclusion for everyone.”
And, according to Rosanes, this has not been a pressing issue for most web developers.
“They are not focused on accessibility when they think of the user experience,” says Rosanes.
“It’s always based on compromise, whether the level of accessibility or the level of the user experience. It supports certain types of limitation, but does not accommodate the needs of elderly people, for example.”
He explains that he was motivated by the disabilities – including visual impairment – experienced by members of his own family.
The User1st “toolkit” integrates assistive technologies such as screen readers, which help people with limited visibility to navigate online through audio or touch functions.
“We built unique tools for each and every framework,” he says, explaining that this is what sets User1st apart from every other company working in this field.
“We went and investigated every type of platform. We didn’t look for a universal solution.”
User1st, which was established in 2012 and today has offices in Tel Aviv and Washington, D.C., initially produced a generic plugin to be laid over websites to make them digitally accessible.
But this required a great deal of maintenance to ensure that websites and apps remained constantly accessible.
The company soon realized that the problem could be resolved by amending the source code of a website or app rather than trying to adapt a user’s operating system or even their hardware.
So the company developed its AI platform to embed within existing websites, using machine learning to ensure that the system remained current.
According to Rosanes, there is a “huge movement” worldwide surrounding the issue of digital accessibility and the legal obligations that companies and institutions have in this area.
Most Western countries already have regulations to ensure that websites and apps are fully accessible for people with disabilities, and in June 2025, the European Union will also bring all digital assets in its member states into compliance.
Legal and moral obligations aside, Rosanes points out that with 20 percent of internet users reliant on digital accessibility, commercial websites that do not provide this service are missing out on a potentially significant revenue stream.
Today User1st does take care of digital accessibility for some of the world’s biggest companies and institutions, including the United Nations, IKEA, Amtrak and T-Mobile.
But in this time of war, Rosanes believes his priority must be the needs of his fellow Israelis who have been caught up in the conflict.
As such, he is inviting any organization or company connected to Israel’s war effort to reach out to him via email so that User1st can make their websites and apps digitally accessible – all for no charge.
“We will help them as best we can to ensure that their digital assets are accessible – whether it’s PDFs, websites or mobile apps – and ensure that this information is accessible to everyone,” he says.
“There are hundreds of thousands of Israelis who lost their homes, family members, whole families – and we need to support them.”