Digital Marketing

A Simple Guide To Web Accessibility Overlays

With web accessibility lawsuits hitting an all-time high in 2021, companies of all shapes and sizes have been forced to reflect on the inclusiveness of their online services. Now that the precedent has been set, it’s expected that the number of victims claiming damages in the federal and state courts will continue to increase, which is why many have turned to web accessibility overlays to help them achieve compliance and mitigate the chances of being sued.

In short, these overlays are designed to provide (or at least drastically enhance) the accessibility of your website with just a few clicks, which means you won’t have to fork out the cost for a website developer to alter the code for your entire website. So, are these overlays too good to be true, or are they the real deal? Let’s find out.

What is a web accessibility overlay?

An “accessibility overlay” is the catch-all term describing technologies that aim to improve the overall accessibility of a website (usually so that it can become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), WCAG 2.1, and Section 508). In general, these overlays employ third-party source code (typically JavaScript) in order to make that a possibility. This results in a better user experience for all users who wish to navigate the website.

Over the past few years, these web accessibility overlays have become increasingly popular since they offer a simple solution to an often complex problem. After all, understanding web accessibility and all the different factors that come into play can be an extremely difficult task even for the largest corporations in the world, let alone small businesses. Furthermore, these overlays offer an affordable and simple alternative to the more traditional methods, which typically entail a completed website overhaul.

Why is web accessibility important?

Web accessibility is a vastly significant practice that companies should strive towards since it has profound legal, ethical, and business implications. Foremost, the companies that neglect to make adequate provisions for their users will expose themselves to the possibility of having lawsuits filed against them, which can cost upwards of $25,000 if found guilty by the courts.

Secondly, as social justice issues take center stage in many political discussions, the pressure is mounting on companies to do the right thing. Oftentimes, this means opening up their products and services to all individuals, regardless of race, gender, or level of ability.

Finally, one of the most overlooked aspects of web accessibility is the potential benefits it offers to businesses. When you consider that roughly 15% of the global population lives with some type of disability, you begin to realize just how many people you could inadvertently be excluding from purchasing your goods and services by simply not making provisions for them on your website. To make matters worse, disabled people are believed to make up one of the most lucrative market segments in the world, since many of them are Baby Boomers that control a large share of wealth.

How web accessibility overlays can improve the level of accessibility for users

With all that said, let’s look at how web accessibility overlays work and how these innovative services can help your company reach compliance.

Detect and fix accessibility issues

The primary function of an overlay is to detect and fix accessibility issues. Most of the time, these are issues that would be flagged as violations of the WCAG 2.1. In general, all you have to do is insert a few lines of code into your website, and then the overlay will do all the hard work for you.

Optimization for assistive technology tools

A big part of web accessibility is ensuring that your website, and its content, are compatible with assistive technology tools such as screen readers, keyboard navigation, and other input modalities. Accessibility overlays take care of this as they ensure that websites are set up correctly so that they are compatible with these tools. This typically means the inclusion of alternative text for images and ARIA attributes.

Fix new and existing content

Websites are always changing. In this content-heavy world that we live in, most website owners are actively revising old content while adding new. This can make it incredibly difficult to keep up to speed with accessibility compliance, especially if you attempt to do things manually. Fortunately, an accessibility overlay takes care of this as it continually scans both new and updated content around the clock.

Compliance with the various regulations

Depending on what country you operate in, your business could be subject to various accessibility guidelines and legislations. This includes the ADA, AODA, EEA, Section 508, and many more. Of course, keeping tabs on all of these standards is practically impossible, which is why the blanket protection offered by accessibility overlays is becoming an increasingly attractive option.

Final word

It’s important to note that many of these overlays have technical limitations, but that’s not to say that they aren’t an adequate solution. For many business owners, forking out thousands of dollars to rewrite their website’s code simply isn’t feasible, whereas paying a monthly subscription for a web accessibility overlay is.

Furthermore, the fact that many website overlays offer 24/7 coverage and regular scanning means that website owners can feel assured that the needs of their visitors are catered for, which allows them to focus their attention on other tasks throughout the company. This alone makes overlays an extremely useful asset to business owners seeking compliance, not to mention the plethora of benefits that a highly accessible site can provide.

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