If it's too good to be true, then it probably is. 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 fail to address inherent accessibility barriers. For example, missing alternative text, proper labeling, multimedia captioning and transcription, keyboard access, etc. An overlay cannot fix these things.
- They can make accessibility worse. So much so, that disabled users actively block overlays. This defeats the purpose of including an overlay to begin with.
- Many disabled people already have the software that they require to navigate the web and can easily leverage features already built into their browsers and operating systems, so where is the value? Do you really think that your website is the first one a disabled person has ever visited?
- You can still be sued. Many overlay companies take advantage of your lack of knowledge about accessibility and sell empty promises that will not shield you from litigation. Don't play the fool!
- Privacy. People with disabilities have more at stake in protecting their anonymity online and want to avoid being singled out and treated differently (they get enough of that in real life), so their need to protect their privacy is important.
- Performance. Do you really need more scripts and unnecessary features cluttering up your website? Many search engines rank your site by how performant they are. This won't help you in that endeavor.
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 occasions when an overlay can be used. For example, using one as a temporary solution while accessibility remediation is underway. Overlay Fact Sheet takes an in-depth look at the strengths and weaknesses of overlay widgets, that you should definitely check out.
A compilation of some great articles and podcasts that take a deep dive into the pitfalls surrounding accessibility overlays.
- AccessiBe and data protection? Léonie Watson, July 27, 2021
- accessiBe and the false David vs. Goliath narrative Eric Bailey, July 22, 2021
- There’s no such thing as fully automated web accessibility Anna E. Cook, July 14, 2021
- 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
- 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
Check out these well worth your time videos and presentations by professionals in the field and the disabled community.
- The Fatal Flaw of Overlays Shell Little, A11yTalks - July 28 2021
- Avoid AccessiBe & Other Companies Claiming Quick & Easy AI Accessibility Haben Girma, May 21 2021
Is an overlay interfering with your web experience? These tools will help you to bypass them.
- AccessiBe Gone: Instructions for blocking AccessiBe and similar intrusive overlays Stephen Clower
- AccessiByeBye - Chrome Plug-in Pneuma Solutions
Stay informed with events surrounding overlays.
- 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