accessibility overlays

Accessibility Overlays: A False Solution

I’m going to be blunt, accessibility overlays SUCK! It’s vital for businesses to prioritize website accessibility to ensure all users, including those with disabilities, can easily access and navigate their online content. One solution that has emerged to address this challenge is the use of accessibility overlays. However, these quick-fix tools can create more harm than good in the long run.

Take a look at the Overlay Factsheet, it contains a list of hundreds of people who are experts in the field of accessibility & have dedicated their professional careers to the improvement of accessibility or are end users with disabilities (or both). 

In this article, we’ll explore why accessibility overlays are not recommended for use on websites, highlighting the limitations and potential pitfalls of relying on them for accessibility compliance.

Accessibility Overlays: Why they SUCK

  1. Misleading Promises of Compliance

One of the primary reasons businesses opt for accessibility overlays is the promise of quick compliance with accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). However, these tools often provide only superficial fixes to accessibility issues, failing to address the root causes of non-compliant code, design, and content.

While overlays might help with some aspects of accessibility, they cannot guarantee full compliance. Many automated tools and widgets lack the depth of understanding that’s required to accurately identify and fix complex accessibility issues. As a result, businesses may be lulled into a false sense of security, believing their websites are compliant when, in reality, they still have underlying accessibility issues.

  1. Ineffective and Inconsistent User Experience

Accessibility overlays may address some issues, but they can also introduce new barriers for users with disabilities. Overlays typically make adjustments to a website’s appearance or behavior, which can create an inconsistent user experience. For example, an overlay might enlarge text or change colors, but it may not adapt to a user’s preferred settings or assistive technology.

Moreover, accessibility overlays often do not account for the wide range of disabilities and assistive technologies that users might employ. This can lead to unintended consequences, like worsening the usability of a site for some users.

  1. Poor Integration with Assistive Technologies

One of the most significant challenges faced by users with disabilities is the compatibility of websites with assistive technologies like screen readers, magnifiers, and speech recognition software. Accessibility overlays often fail to integrate seamlessly with these tools, leaving users struggling to access content and navigate websites.

For instance, overlays may inadvertently introduce new keyboard navigation issues or disrupt the functionality of screen readers, creating more barriers rather than removing them. Ultimately, this can result in a frustrating and exclusionary experience for users who rely on assistive technologies.

  1. Limited Scope and Customizability

Accessibility overlays generally offer a one-size-fits-all solution, which may not cater to the unique accessibility needs and preferences of individual users. While these tools claim to address a wide range of accessibility issues, they often fall short in providing comprehensive and customizable solutions.

For example, an overlay may offer options to increase font size or contrast but may not be flexible enough to accommodate users who require more specific adjustments. This lack of customizability can further alienate users with disabilities, creating an unwelcoming digital environment.

  1. Undermining the Importance of Inclusive Design

Relying on accessibility overlays can inadvertently perpetuate the idea that accessibility is an afterthought rather than a crucial component of web design. By attempting to “fix” accessibility issues with a quick overlay solution, businesses may not invest in building websites with inclusive design principles from the ground up.

Inclusive design ensures that websites are created with accessibility in mind from the outset, addressing potential barriers during the design and development process. This approach leads to a more robust, user-friendly, and compliant website that caters to the needs of all users, including those with disabilities.

  1. Legal Risks and Liability

While accessibility overlays claim to help businesses comply with accessibility regulations, they may not be sufficient in meeting legal requirements. Courts have increasingly recognized that websites must be accessible to users with disabilities, and businesses that rely solely on overlays to achieve compliance may still be vulnerable to legal action.

In fact, several lawsuits have been filed against companies that used accessibility overlays on their websites, asserting that these tools did not provide an adequate level of access for users with disabilities. By relying on overlays, businesses may inadvertently expose themselves to potential legal risks and financial liabilities.

accessibility overlays - not all disabilities are visable

A Better Solution to Accessibility Overlays

At 181 Creative Agency, we believe that the digital world should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities. That’s why we’re committed to designing websites that meet the highest accessibility standards, ensuring that all users can seamlessly navigate and interact with your online content.

Our team of skilled designers and developers understands the importance of following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which outline best practices for creating accessible websites. When designing custom websites, including Learning Management Systems (LMS) and eCommerce platforms, we take a proactive approach to accessibility. We incorporate features like keyboard navigation, alternative text for images, and proper use of headings and landmarks to create a smooth user experience for individuals with varying needs.

In addition to designing accessible websites from the ground up, we also offer accessibility auditing services for existing websites. Our comprehensive audits can help you identify areas of non-conformance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other accessibility standards. We thoroughly assess your website’s design, code, and content to pinpoint potential barriers for users with disabilities.

Once we’ve completed the audit, we’ll provide you with a detailed report outlining the areas that need improvement, along with actionable recommendations for addressing these issues. Our team can also help you implement the necessary changes to ensure that your website is fully compliant and accessible to all users.

By partnering with 181 Creative Agency, you’re not only investing in an exceptional online presence but also demonstrating your commitment to inclusivity and equal access. Our accessibility-focused approach not only benefits users with disabilities but also improves the overall user experience for all visitors, ultimately leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Make your digital presence truly inclusive and open to everyone by choosing 181 Creative Agency for your accessible website design and auditing needs. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help you create a more accessible and welcoming online experience for your audience.


Accessibility overlays may appear to be an easy and cost-effective solution for improving website accessibility, but their limitations and potential pitfalls far outweigh the benefits. Instead of relying on these quick-fix tools, businesses should invest in building and maintaining websites that adhere to inclusive design principles and WCAG guidelines.

By doing so, businesses can ensure that their websites provide a welcoming and accessible experience for all users, while also minimizing legal risks and promoting a more inclusive digital landscape.

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