The importance of designing accessibility in software from the ground up has only been emphasized by the pandemic, and as a consequence Fable’s on-demand accessibility experts have proven their value many times over. The company has raised $10.5 million to scale up and pursue its goal to “make Inclusive Product Development the status quo,” as CEO Alwar Pillai put it.
Fable raised a $1.5 million seed round in the summer of 2020 (it was founded in 2018), in response to increasing demand for firsthand expertise in accessibility — essentially, people with disabilities and software experience who could be tapped to provide testing and advice to developers. If you’re designing your app to be usable by blind folks, you should probably have blind folks testing it, right? Fable makes that sort of thing easy.
But the point of the company isn’t just to provide a diverse group of testers and experts — it’s to ensure that accessibility can be on the roadmap at any company and any project from the start. The last couple years have driven that message home.
“With the onset of COVID-19 the physical world ground to a halt and everything went online. This put a spotlight on the importance of ensuring that everyone can access digital products and services,” said Pillai. “While this spotlight has helped bring awareness of the problem to more organizations, our mission has always been, and continues to be, to empower people with disabilities to participate, contribute and shape society.”
The new funding round, led by Five Elms Capital with participation from Difference Partners, Disruption Ventures and several angels, will of course help scale and improve the products they already offer. Companies like Microsoft, Shopify, Slack and Meta are already customers.
But now the company is also going to dip its toe into the world of corporate training.
“While we’ve seen an explosion in the practice of accessibility across organizations, knowledge and skill sets have not kept up,” Pillai said. “Our second product, Fable Upskill, was developed in response to overwhelming customer demand for accessibility training.”
Upskill will be “video-based courses designed by accessibility experts specifically for each team,” including the actual products and processes the customer already uses. So not just a standard one-size-fits-all “How to do accessibility” video (we probably have enough of those already).
Of course, given Fable’s core strength of a widespread community of professionals with disabilities, the content will also put those experts and their voices front and center so the advice doesn’t come across as abstract. Upskill will be getting a shot in the arm with this $10 million infusion, so don’t be surprised if you see one of Fable’s videos in your own training materials sometime soon.