Lawsuits Rise Against Companies Using Overlay Solutions Like AccessiBe and UserWay

Nov 27, 2021 | ADA/WCAG Conformance

Laptop screen showing restricted, access denied and blocked content.

Overlay and Widget Providers Assert False Claims and Irresponsible Marketing

Widgets and overlays such as AccessiBe and UserWay mask, but do not fix the underlying accessibility issues and are even harmful to the very people they purport to assist.

Further, these companies even go so far as to say they will protect the website owner from lawsuits. The facts are, they can’t and they don’t.

Lawsuits filed against companies using these overlays or widgets for accessibility were filed at a rate of one-a-day by the end of 2020.

Website handicap accessibility and ADA compliance cannot be achieved with just a simple push of a button, the installation of a widget, plugin code or other short cut, cookie cutter solutions.

This is unfortunate. If the implementations required for website accessibility were more simple and easier the more they would be adopted. It would be a “win-win” situation for the disabled and website owners alike.

However, that is not currently the case.

Lawsuits against companies whose websites use overlays to achieve accessibility have nearly tripled in the latter part of 2020. (Usablenet, 2020 data analysis)

The National Federation of the Blind has even banned AccessiBe From Its National Convention because it “… believes that accessiBe currently engages in behavior that is harmful to the advancement of blind people in society.Largest U.S. Blind Advocacy Group Bans Web Accessibility Overlay Giant AccessiBe From Its National Convention Forbes | Gus Alexiou | Jun 26, 2021

Many website owners have turned to “overlay” products like AccessiBe and UserWay as an instant ADA compliance fix. An overlay is a toolbar or widget that, when activated, presents users with options such as changing a website’s color scheme, enlarging text, pausing animations, etc., but these are ineffective on their own. There’s no quick fix for making your digital experiences accessible. Forbes | May 27, 2021

“An alarming number of companies have fallen for it. Millions of dollars have poured into it. Beware of #AccessiBe, #AudioEye, #EqualWeb, #User1st, #UserWay, & other automated web accessibility “solutions.” I made this video to alert those new to digital accessibility.”

As the first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben Girma currently practices as a human rights lawyer advancing disability justice. President Obama named her a White House Champion of Change.

While this website uses an overlay, it is only for the convenience of users such as those with mild vision problems and not for compliance with the WCAG or the ADA.

In fact, “More than 200 cases were against companies that used accessibility widgets or overlays. These solutions do nothing to make a website more accessible for the blind. Because issues are not resolved and code is not fixed, plaintiff “testers” find violations. Widget and overlay vendors didn’t protect companies from ADA lawsuits.” WIDGETS AND OVERLAYS FAIL TO PROTECT COMPANIES | UsableNet | Dec 21, 2020

In fact, “Blind people say AccessiBe, which is supposed to automatically make websites more compatible with the screen readers blind people rely on to access the internet, has prevented them from all sorts of normal activities online, like paying rent, teaching a class or buying Christmas gifts.” Blind people, advocates slam company claiming to make websites ADA compliant NBC News | April Glaser | May 9, 2021

Adirondack Website Design is committed to providing accessible websites for all of our clients and all of their users.

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