Why website overlays are not an accessibility solution

Thank you for your interest in Outlook Business Solutions. Due to resourcing constraints we have made the difficult decision to forego additional client work at this time. We sincerely appreciate the customers we’ve been able to help and for their commitment to inclusivity. We hope to be of service again in the near future. If you are interested in learning more about Outlook Business Solutions sister companies and how they serve individuals who are blind, please contact info@outlooken.org for more information.
Why website overlays are not an accessibility solution

Disabled access is a growing conversation, especially when it comes to software and technology. More and more companies attempt to include website accessibility but often fail to seek out accessibility experts.

Many companies have turned to website overlay solutions to make their digital content accessible. But more often than not, overlays do not fix the problem, and people with disabilities have just as frustrating of a time navigating an overlay on a site. This is not a solution; it’s an antiquated attempt to consider accessibility without really doing so. It’s also no guarantee against an ADA lawsuit.

What is an accessible overlay solution?

An accessible overlay solution acts as a layer between assistive technology and a website. This is a cheap solution because companies do not have to change the overall source code, which saves time and money. However, as an automated software solution, an overlay can only detect about 30 percent of WCAG issues. WCAG is sometimes interpretive, and machines are not good at this. As an added layer to a website, an overlay will only address some website accessibility issues, mostly the easy stuff. Any fixes that do happen only apply to the overlay layer and a user has to find a button before they can even use this mode.

Four reasons why overlays are a problem:

  • Promotes a separate but equal approach – Overlays do not allow people with disabilities to access a site in the same way as non-disabled peers.
  • May repair some specific experiences but don’t account for issues with the actual site. This may leave simple issues, such as unlabeled controls and images,  presented in a way that is difficult for the user to understand.
  • Users can’t obtain access to important information because overlays often require them to learn different technology that does not meet their needs.
  • It provides an inferior fix – More and more companies are finding themselves facing legal suits because of lacking accessibility. Since overlays fail to provide all of the same information that is on the regular site, they are not an equal solution.

It’s crucial that companies provide equal experiences for all consumers. WCAG must be followed, and the best way to ensure this is to rely on accessibility consultants with a foundational understanding of website accessibility and WCAG.

As a consulting company, Outlook Business Solutions can run audits on your site. We can give feedback and repair issues.

Disabled people make up 25 percent of the population. Disability does not equate to expendability. Building inclusive design into software and technology is a matter of necessity, not special treatment. Access to information is important for all people, disabled and non-disabled alike. Reach out to Outlook Business Solutions today to ensure your website can be used by everyone.