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Accessibility Overlays

    Creator: NNELS

    Date updated: March 5, 2024


    Accessibility overlays are software packages which are used to attempt to insert accessibility on top of a poorly accessible website. Web developers, managers with responsibility in for-profit and non-profit capacities, and content teams beware: accessibility overlays can not guarantee WCAG compliance, and they are never a substitute for properly accessible websites.

    The information in this resource is summarized from the NNELS Accessibility Overlays article.

    Quick Facts

    Accessibility overlays are a specialized piece of software that promises to be the solution to website accessibility barriers. However, the accessibility community, including those at the A11y Project and the UX Collective do not recommend using this software to create an accessible experience. The truth is that due to accessibility having both an objective and subjective component to it, it is simply not possible for automated tools to catch all accessibility errors and correct them on their own. Accessibility requires work from developers, UX designers, and QA teams to assure long-term stability.

    Doing website development without considering accessibility in the early stages can be an expensive, litigious, and public ordeal. It is recommended that websites, especially those in the public service, work to be accessible from day one—this not only ensures that the visually impaired users have access to all the information other patrons would, but it also ensure that expensive remediation efforts will not be necessary in the future.

    In short:

    Accessibility overlays may do some good as temporary stop-gaps against immediate access—if and only if the website has not been designed with accessibility in mind—but long-term usage, or not paying attention to accessibility at all may be detrimental to your business or public service work. 


    A11Y Project Team. (2021, March 8). Background: Should I use an accessibility overlay?. The A11Y Project.

    Alexiou, G. (2022, November 9). Largest U.S. blind advocacy group bans web accessibility overlay giant AcessiBe from its National Convention. Forbes.

    Council of Canadians with Disabilities. (2013). Jodhan Decision Advances Success to Web Sites for Persons with Vision Impairment.

    Cook, A. E. (2021, December 21). There’s no such thing as fully automated web accessibility. Medium.

    Osolen, R. (2021, September 2). Accessibility overlays and accessibility. Accessibility Overlays and Accessibility | National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS).

    UsableNet. (2024, January). ADA website compliance lawsuit tracker.