The consensus of many people with disabilities, the web design and development community, and legal voices in this space, are that accessibility overlays are not useful on a website for the following reasons:
- They do not address inherent accessibility barriers. For example, missing alternative text, proper labeling, multimedia captioning and transcription, keyboard access, etc. A plugin cannot fix these things (at least not yet). In some cases, they can even interfere with the overall usability of a website.
- While plugins like this may be of some benefit to a small minority of people, we can assume that many people with disabilities already have the third-party software they require to navigate the web or can more easily leverage features already built into their browsers and operating systems, so there is really no value-add here. In short, your website is not the first one a disabled user has ever visited.
- Turnkey solutions like this set a bad precedent by lulling stakeholders into a false sense of security about the true accessibility of their website. Many of these vendors take advantage of one’s lack of knowledge about accessibility and sell empty promises that will not shield a company from litigation regarding the inaccessibility of their website.
- Privacy. People with disabilities have more of a stake in protecting their anonymity online and often want to avoid being singled out and/or treated differently (they get enough of that in real life), so there is distrust in using plugins like these. Disabled users may even block such plugins, which defeats the purpose of including them.
- Performance. Simply put, more scripts, especially if they have no proven benefit to users, will only serve to slow down your site. Not only should there be a concern about this from a usability perspective, but an SEO one as well. Many search engines rank your site by how performant they are.
The answer is simple: People who are disabled want to be treated equally, so they expect you to design and build your website with inclusion and accessibility in mind and not to throw a band-aid on it. The only way to do that is to commit, provision for, and make accessibility a part of your process throughout the lifetime of your website.
So is design, development, testing, security, and proper management and maintenance of your website, but we have come to accept that those things are important and worth our time. Why should accessibility be treated any differently? Not only is it the right thing to do, but there is a strong business case to make your website more accessible, too.
Pretty much, but there may be some rare occasions when an overlay can be used. For example, using one as a temporary solution while accessibility remidiation is underway. Overlay Fact Sheet takes an in-depth look at the strengths and weaknesses of overlay widgets, that you should definetly check out.
A compilation of some great articles and podcasts that take a deep dive into the pitfalls surrounding accessibility overlays.
- Adrian and the Overlays 13 Letters, April 1, 2021
- Overlay Fact Sheet, a collective statement from global accessibility practitioners, March 11, 2021
- Should I use an accessibility overlay? The A11Y Project Team, March 8, 2021
- Why I blocked #AccessiBe Robert Kingett, March 4, 2021
- Overlay Accessibility Solutions Fail ADA Website Compliance Propeller Media Works, October 24, 2020
- 5 False Claims 1-Line "AI" Accessibility Script Vendors Make (Video) Eric Eggert, October 20, 2020
- One Line of Code Will Not Prevent an ADA Accessibility Lawsuit Kim Krause Berg, CPACC Accessibility & UX, August 25, 2020
- Honor the ADA: Avoid Web Accessibility Quick-Fix Overlays Lainey Feingold, August 10, 2020
- #accessiBe Will Get You Sued Adrian Roselli, June 29, 2020
- Bolt-on Accessibility – 5 gears in reverse Steve Faulkner, May 13, 2020
- Web accessibility overlay tools: lies and gum balls by Julie Moynat, April 11, 2020
- Overlays and Plugins Aren't the Answer to Accessibility Colleen Gratzer, April 8, 2020
- 7 Reasons Why Accessibility Overlays Aren’t a Magical Solution Amy Carney, March 3, 2020
- Overlays are not the solution to your accessibility problem Sheri Byrne-Haber, January 14, 2020
- Web Accessibility Overlays Don't Work Karl Groves, February 14, 2019
Is an overlay interfering with your web experience? These tools may help.
- AccessiBe Gone: Instructions for blocking AccessiBe and similar intrusive overlays Stephen Clower
- AccessiByeBye - Chrome Plug-in Pneuma Solutions
Stay informed with events surrounding overlays and the companies that produce them.
- Blind people, advocates slam company claiming to make websites ADA compliant April Glaser, NBC News, May 9, 2021
- People With Disabilities Say This AI Tool Is Making the Web Worse for Them Todd Feathers, March 17, 2021
- WordPress.org Removes Fake Reviews for AccessiBe Plugin Sarah Gooding, February 18, 2021
- AccessiBe & the fake WordPress plug-in reviews Joe Dolson, February 17, 2021