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web accessibility

The Dangers of Using Overlay Tools for Web Accessibility

AccessiBe, EqualWeb, and UserWay are popular web accessibility tools. What are the potential risks in using these overlay technologies?

Web accessibility overlay technologies use JavaScript and CSS to manipulate webpage content in order to meet accessibility criteria. Some providers of these technologies include AccessiBe, EqualWeb, and UserWay.

Overlay technology is often marketed for its ability to enhance color contrast ratio, text sizes, and other changes aimed at improving the experience for users with disabilities. However, it is important to note that these features are already available through the operating system's accessibility offerings and can also be utilized within the web browser itself. Individuals with visual disabilities are typically well-acquainted with the accessibility features provided by their operating systems.

Overlay technology is also frequently promoted for its automated, AI-assisted repair capabilities. While this feature can be useful for minor fixes like adding missing image alternate text, it is important to note that it is often unreliable and inaccurate.

  • Automated application of text alternatives for images is not reliable

  • Automated repair of field labels, error management, error handling, and focus control on forms is not reliable

  • Automated repair of keyboard access is not reliable

  • Modern, component-based user interfaces, such as those using ReactJS, Angular, or Vue may change the state of all or some of the underlying page independently of the overlay, rendering it unable to fix those JavaScript-driven changes to content.

  • Repairs to the page can either slow down page load times or cause unexpected page changes for assistive technology users.

Overlay technology is still in its early stages and should not be viewed as a definitive solution for avoiding legal issues related to web accessibility. It tends to make exaggerated claims about its capabilities, but currently falls short of delivering on those promises.

Rather than addressing the fundamental causes of web accessibility problems, it serves more as a temporary fix.

We do not recommend the use of it as a solution to avoid legal accessibility-related problems, as it does not offer a clear advantage to users when considering cost-effectiveness. Our recommenadtion is a proper web accessibility audit to uncover the underlying technical and design issues in order to achieve compliance.

Please find more information regarding overlay web accessibility assistive technology here.