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Accessibility is Worth the Squeeze

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By the Ablr Team

Recently, there has been a blast of Google Ads and emails from overlay companies that claim that with essentially no effort on your part, they can make your website accessible. These overlays, also referred to as accessibility widgets, provide a few lines of code to add to a website that allow visitors change settings. Visitors can adjust elements such as contrast, highlighting of titles, increasing font sizes, pausing animations, etc.

Anyone who truly understands digital accessibility knows that this is a bunch of malarkey. Digital accessibility is about much more than just lines of code – it is about removing the barriers that people face when they visit your website or use your app. Yet even companies with the best of intentions are duped by these false promises of creating an accessible experience for their users with disabilities when they use these “overlay” products. One such company is a client of ours.

Several months ago, a company reached out to Ablr after receiving a letter of demand stating their website was not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).  The plaintiff claimed that they couldn’t purchase goods from the company’s site with the same ease as consumers without disabilities.

The Ablr team conducted a thorough assessment of the site and identified several key templates that needed to be tested. We also drew up a set of workflows that visitors to the site would most likely want to accomplish.

Results

After the initial delivery, the client understood that there needed to be significant remediation in order to be compliant. In order to assess their options, they engaged with several developers to get pricing for the remediation project. After evaluating the different proposals, the company decided to scrap the remediation, and informed us that they wanted to build a new site and engage us from the design phase. This was music to our ears. Building accessibility into the foundation of a new website ensures that a website is properly compliant from the beginning and facilitates the integration of new accessible content.

As the months passed, communications from the company ceased. At the end of our contract engagement, we provide the final assessment. In reviewing the website for the final assessment, we noticed that the client had not actually rebuilt the website.  They had instead decided to use an overlay from a company which is notorious for providing false guarantees of compliance using their product.

When we assessed the site with the overlay, we found that most of the previously identified issues had not been addressed and were still out of compliance.   

Analysis

This company’s experience is just one example of how overlays are not a magic wand to full compliance. Furthermore, they are not even an effective short-term solution if you find yourself out of compliance and are looking to build a new website.

Of course, we understand the temptation posed by the low cost and big promise of overlays if you find yourself out of compliance. But it’s important to realize that you have other options! For example:

  • Break it down to bite size pieces – address the most critical issues first. These are the most likely to result in a lawsuit, and by fixing them, you are showing that you are making a good faith effort to comply with accessibility regulations.
  • Provide alternative solutions – this isn’t ideal, but make sure that there are other ways for visitors to your site to engage and purchase goods from your site. For example, provide a way for your customers to complete their purchases by phone or email.

These options allow you to avoid crossing over to “the dark side” of accessibility and investing in an overlay. Instead, we would love to partner with you throughout your entire accessibility journey, from testing to remediation and beyond.  We strive to educate our clients so that they can become accessibility champions.   Additionally, we have a network of web development partners that understand accessibility. If you need help with building a website, we can help you there too.