Overlays, plugins or widgets don’t guarantee accessibility and compliance – official joined statement

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As mentioned in my previous post, where I reflect on my contribution to the first Global Accessibility Awareness Day contribution in Slovenia, The European Disability Forum (EDF) and International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) issued a joint statement that overlays don’t guarantee accessibility and compliance (opens in new window).

This kind of statement was awaited for a long time. I remember there were discussions about such a statement even before I signed the OverlayFactSheet (opens in new window) as a number 91 (out of 778 on this day). And finally we got it.

It was for sure not an easy task when we consider that some overlays include mechanisms that partially even improve parts of accessibility and it’s maybe even more logical that it took time to come with such a statement when some overlay providers even include members of both IAAP and in some ways also EDF. But I am really happy that such a statement is now published so that people are not convinced by pure marketing of the overlays that can often promise too much, like “single script to make your site compliant”.

Our objective with this statement is to ensure that people who are not digital accessibility experts understand what this technology can and cannot do. We strongly advise buyers of technology to actively engage with digital accessibility experts, persons with disabilities and their representative organisations to understand user needs and how these can be met.

EDF and IAAP on objective (opens in new window).

I quote some parts of the statement here, for a brief reference;

While some of these functionalities can help some users, most are redundant as they are already available in browsers or provided by usersโ€™ chosen assistive technology.

Most overlay functionalities are redundant!

As mentioned multiple times in my own posts as well – people don’t need a per-page setting when they have a per-browser or per operating system feature that they can configure to work on absolutely all pages.

Website owners who are not digital accessibility specialists may be led to believe that overlays can โ€˜fixโ€™ the accessibility of a website, which is not the case. Overlays do not make the website accessible or compliant with European accessibility legislation. They do not constitute an acceptable alternative or a substitute for fixing the website itself.

Overlays can’t fix accessibility!

A lot of money has been thrown to marketing of different overlay providers and when people on tight time schedules search for solutions they often encounter overlays as a simple and quick add-ons that solve all of their problems.

Some overlay providers also provide manual testing and remediation and I am totally fine with that but they should be more transparent about that. I guess that overlay providers suffer from each other when their marketing departments try to be bolder and produce catchier ads when core business knows exactly that the reality demands manual audits and remediation.

Hopefully stakeholders will get better awareness about this and statements like this from users and specialists ought to help, provided they get enough attention. That’s also my intention with this and other blog posts. Difficult to compete with big marketing budgets but more people spread the truth better it will be, I hope!

Author: Bogdan Cerovac

I am IAAP certified Web Accessibility Specialist (from 2020) and was Google certified Mobile Web Specialist.

Work as Agency co-owner web developer and accessibility lead.

Sole entrepreneur behind IDEA-lab Cerovac (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility lab) after work.

Living and working in Norway (๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด), originally from Slovenia (๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ), loves exploring the globe (๐ŸŒ).

Nurturing the web from 1999, this blog from 2019.

More about me and how to contact me: