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Accessibility Overlays and Accessibility

    Creator: Accessible Libraries

    Date of Update: November 6, 2024

    This resource describes and demonstrates why accessibility overlays prevent your website from being accessible.


    Websites or digital content can be accessible to screen readers and other assistive technologies by following accessibility standards and guidelines. This provides all users access to the same content and results in more inclusive digital environments. However, websites often use accessibility overlays as a solution for accessibility when, in fact, accessibility overlays create segregation and result in more exclusion for people with disabilities.

    What are accessibility overlays?

    Accessibility overlays are products that modify the code of a web page, often using JavaScript, with the intent to detect and fix web accessibility issues automatically. These products are usually in the form of a plugin, app, toolbar, or widget that you can add to your website’s functionality.

    What is the impact of using accessibility overlays?

    Accessibility overlays leave out both the technical points of website accessibility and the users themselves, thus resulting in exclusionary processes and products. Moreover, accessibility overlays and automation of remediation are imperfect: these tools often fail to identify problems in several areas correctly, including keyboard traps that prevent users from using form fields, missing links, focus order, quality and relevance of image description and alt-text, use of layout tables, closed captions, inaccessible captchas, and misidentified language.

    What is the accessible alternative?

    The solution to digital accessibility is to utilize the expertise of website designers who will take the time to learn about and design websites based on accessibility standards and guidelines and then have that design tested by seasoned accessibility testers with lived experience. People with disabilities are the individuals who know their technology best and have experience with how that technology will interact with a website. This combination of good design with qualified individuals with lived experience will provide the best evaluation and feedback for website and application accessibility.

    Accessibility overlays should not be considered a magic solution to meet all web accessibility guidelines and mitigate risk/non-compliance instead of ensuring access. stands alongside the many organizations and individuals speaking out against using accessibility overlays.

    Additional Resources

    For further reading, please check out: