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Web Accessibility Overlays: The Good, the Bad, and the Solution

Equalweb
Posted by Equalweb on Jun 29, 2022 3:10:55 PM

Web accessibility overlay solutions have come under heavy criticism in recent years. The common critique goes something like this: using automatic overlays for digital remediation is, overall, an ineffective method, a band-aid placed over a dysfunctional organ.

The automatic functions skip over many website features, thus leaving the person with some type of disability frustrated, unable to engage with much of the website’s content.

The argument is summed up in four main points:

1. Automated overlays offer redundant accessibility features that end-users already possess
2. Automated overlays are not long-term solutions
3. Automated overlays may interfere with users’ preference for privacy, therefore violating privacy regulations
Automated overlays cannot fully meet accessibility and compliance standards

For instance, while overlays can automatically alter a web page’s contrast, magnify text, and convert a page to black and white, they cannot focus control in virtual forms (placing the cursor in empty fields). Adding alternative text to images, in another instance, is extremely difficult to execute with high accuracy via automatic overlays.

To sum it up, automatic overlays do not achieve Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Success Criteria, therefore fall short of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance requirements.

 

The good

The appeal for overlay solutions, however, is understandable. Businesses opt for quick and simple solutions that will save significant time and money. After all, digital remediation is complex and requires a big team of developers who are knowledgeable in regard to WCAG standards, as well as web designers and lawyers acquainted with the plethora of regulations.

The automated overlay (or widget, toolbar, digital interface, etc.) replaces this expensive and time-consuming option with an affordable, outsourced option.

Moreover, the automated solution does cater to many disability needs. While some functions may be redundant to some end-users, others are crucial. Keyboard navigation is a must feature that the automated overlay can supply effectively. Voice Command is another enhancement that should feature on every website and is a highly effective tool provided by the overlay.

Although these numbers are a gross estimation, implementing a highly sophisticated, advanced web accessibility overlay on most websites would elevate them to up to 70 to 80 percent of WCAG 2.1 accessibility standards. Which is better than nothing.

 

The bad

The bottom line though—it’s not enough. Websites that fully rely on automated overlays are risking ADA violations and lawsuit action. Despite website owners making a true effort, paying vendors for their service, and effectively removing online barriers for people with disabilities, they may still find themselves facing a hefty ADA claim.

And as we cover this extensively elsewhere, the law does not lend any favors to the business being sued. Once a suit has been filed, presenting a case in court that one was unaware of the law, displayed good faith, or even fixed the accessibility issue under contention is not sufficient to defend against an ADA violation.

 

The solution

To close the gap between a fully compliant website and an almost or not that far from a fully compliant website, EqualWeb developed the number one solution in the market.

EqualWeb is the only digital web accessibility provider offering a “hybrid” solution, combining the AI enhancer, which quickly elevates the website to conform to most WCAG standards, and manual remediation executed by our top web accessibility experts.

On top of that, the EqualWeb Monitor Scan periodically monitors websites and searches for any accessibility issues that need fixing. Our human experts then audit the website manually and look for anything the scan may have missed and fix them at the code level.

While this is the more expensive solution, some websites without too many pages could use the automated solution and meet compliance standards—depending on the form of content.

Contact us for further consultation. Otherwise, go to our Plans & Pricing page to see the right solution for your business.

Topics: Web Accessibility, Artificial Intelligence, EqualWeb, ADA compliance, WCAG 2.1, Overlay, widget, web accessibility overlays, web accessibility standards

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