Chris Ashton

dai11y 27/07/2022

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Best Practices for Overlays

Ken Nakata writes a thought-provoking article about controversial accessibility overlays.

Ken was once opposed to overlays, but has come around to the idea, on the basis that they can work harmoniously with other accessibility initiatives. He concedes that the damage has already been done by inaccurate marketing of overlay companies, who falsely claim they can make websites fully accessible with a single line of code. But if we can allow overlays to mature and have these companies taper their claims, Ken envisages a future where overlays are widely used and useful.

For example, a customer might hire an accessibility consultant, who spots a WCAG violation with a tab panel on their website. The developers fix that panel, but in the meantime, an overlay is programmed to spot and fix similar matches that don’t exactly match the original. As users come across these panels in the wild, the overlay does its best to fix the issue, and also automatically notifies the developers about the bug.

Ken thinks overlays are an inevitability because:

  1. There is simply too much inaccessible content out there, and it won’t ever be fixed.
  2. Not all users are experts – more traditional assistive technology can be difficult to use.
  3. Technology gets better all the time.

Ken finishes with a list of rules he believes all overlay producers should follow, containing good guidelines such as not automatically applying settings, and giving all users the option to quickly dismiss the panel.

Definitely worth a read.

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