Starting with accessibility overlays
Overlays have many benefits. For example, they are relatively inexpensive. They are fast to install. Some offer AI-guided hints that will alert you when you do something on your site that fails to meet guidelines.
Before going much further on the subject of website accessibility overlays, I thought I’d demonstrate one we installed on a customer’s site in the US, at their request.
Deploying not only addresses the majority of the accessibility issues on your website, but an overlay also demonstrates that you have taken steps to conform to guidelines, sitewhich a court may look on favourably in the event of a claim.
Coupled with a well-written accessibility statement that offers anyone the opportunity to reach out to you to seek resolution to a complaint, these efforts demonstrate you take accessibility seriously.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, overlays won’t do everything, so you should consider what overlays don’t do so you can address their limitations. The limitations are not impossible, but you need to be conscious of them.
For example, they won’t add close captioning to self-hosted videos. For the record, you shouldn’t be self-hosting video anyway, and instead, use Youtube, which most often will take care of captioning for you (however, you must still check that the captioning is working). They also don’t convert the text in images or PDFs into machine-readable text. So, you may still need to add alt text to descriptive photos or images and avoid using scanned PDF documents that aren’t readable by web browsers.
Furthermore, some disability overlays can slow websites down. As regular readers of this blog, know that slow speed kills when it comes to website conversions.
Lastly, it’s important to note that overlays do not stop lawsuits from happening. The Usablenet blog found that “around 100 companies received lawsuits after investing in overlay widgets” and that “some lawsuits even listed widget features as a burden”
Due to the threat of mounting legal costs to defend a lawsuit, most defendants settle these claims out of court.
Nevertheless, overlay software is an excellent place to start down the path of making your site accessible. It will take care of many issues for you.
An overlay may take a web development agency less than a few hours to install, configure, test and deploy. We recommend one brand that we’ve seen great results with – AccessiBe – which costs about $500 a year for websites under 1000 pages.
Overlays are a start, but there’s more to consider
Once you’ve deployed an overlay, you can continue with manual actions. However, the costs can be high (think five figures for auditing, certification, and coding changes to conform to accessibility guidelines alone).
Furthermore, remaining conformant is an ongoing commitment (assuming you make any changes to your website in the future).
Suppose I had to choose the key target areas. In that case, I’d ensure that you have
- Keyboard navigable navigation
- Image ALT text that software can read aloud
- Video and audio caption
- Scanned PDFs that are machine-readable
Crucially if you’re designing a website or redesigning yours, insist that your web developer uses a WCAG 2.1 compliant and ready WordPress theme.
Years ago, we chose AVADA as a house WordPress theme in which we build all of our websites. The good news for our customers is that AVADA features will not break WCAG rules at all.
The AVADA website builder is 100% compliant and ready.
With that said, colour schemes and the content setup remains up to the user/designer to maintain the site for accessibility. Some of these choices can be mitigated by overlays while others will need to be part of your web content management protocols.
Don’t wait to choose which website accessibility option is right for you
Begin a serious conversation with your digital marketing agency partner about making your website accessible. What steps have they taken to maximise accessibility? Does your site need an overlay? What protocols do your designer and you have in place to ensure accessibility isn’t just a project, but a long-term commitment? Are they aware of the requirements advised in the WACG? Are they familiar with the requirements noted in the European Accessibility Act or the UK Equality Act?
While the UK hasn’t yet seen claims, lawyers in the US have described the situation as a “tsunami of ADA litigation”. Beyond complying with the law, there is a convincing business case for website accessibility. 14.1 million disabled people live in the UK alone. Why lose out on sales from them with a website that doesn’t meet the standards they need to use it?
As of now, no organisations have been successfully taken to court under the UK Equality Act 2010. Several discrimination cases against non-compliant websites have been brought forward by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and settled out of court.
Usablenet suggests, “the best and most important action a company can take is to establish an accessibility plan, commit to it with resources and start on the path to digital inclusion for all. If you are overwhelmed, the right accessibility partner can guide you.”