Accessibility is important for all websites in today’s world.
That is something I’ve talked about a lot here on the blog and over on the YouTube channel. Everyone should be able to use your website no matter what technology they use to browse the web. It just makes sense.
Unfortunately in the pursuit of that, people look for a quick fix. They look for a magic bullet to make their website instantly accessible.
And that’s where Accessibe comes into play. This product is marketed as an accessibility overlay that will make your website accessibility compliant and keep you safe from complaints.
But the truth, like everything that seems too good to be true, is not so rosy. There have been many documented cases where it, in fact, has actually made it harder for those with screen readers to use websites. And they even got caught adding in fake positive reviews for their WordPress plugin.
So let’s go through why your website should not be using Accessibe to make it accessible.
Why your website should be accessible
So first things first. Why should your website be accessible?
Well, according to Akea, 56.7 million American have some sort of disability. And there’s a good chance that they either use something other than a mouse to navigate through a website (like a keyboard or screen reader) or might have issues with colors or both.
And poorly built websites can cause issues with those assistive technologies. A website that is not accessible makes it almost impossible for someone to tab through a website and do everything that mouse users can do, like make a purchase or fill a form.
Your website should not do that. Instead, you should make sure that someone can tab through your website. You should make sure that the colors you use for backgrounds and text have the right contrast. And you should make sure your images have alternative text.
Accessibility doesn’t take longer JUST because it’s accessibility.— Derek Featherstone (@feather) March 11, 2021
It takes longer because you’re learning new things:
New techniques, new processes, new things to consider, new insights from working with people with disabilities, new measures of success.
Plus, in the United States, there is a bit of a grey area about whether the Americans with Disabilities Act covers websites or not. In this case, it’s absolutely the best idea to go ahead and make sure your website is accessible.
Because everyone should be able to access and use your website no matter what technology they use.
What are accessibility overlays?
So before we get to Accessibe, we first need to talk about accessibility overlays, because that is essentially what Accessibe is.
According to Essential Accessibility, overlays are “a plug-in tool that detects accessibility issues directly on a webpage and tries to ‘repair’ them in real time, instead of within the web code as is required.”
And because of that, a lot of accessibility overlay companies will market them as sort of a magic bullet that will somehow fix all of your website’s accessibility problems.
But as you’ll see, what seems too good to be true probably is.
What is Accessibe?
To make a long story short, Accessibe is basically an accessibility overlay. They advertise it as something that will make your website compliant with accessibility guidelines without you having to change any code or do anything else.
But as we talked about, there are a number of accessibility overlays out there on the market today. So why am I singling out Accessibe?
Well, they have been extremely aggressive in their marketing. They’ve pushed themselves out there as sort of the “leaders” of the accessibility overlay world at the moment. And if you’ve done some basic research on web accessibility recently, you’ve probably heard about them. Hopefully you’ve gotten a chance to read this Vice article about them.
Looks like accessiBe has sent its B-team to confront people who are sharing that Vice post:https://t.co/GxiOxMauhl— Adrian Roselli (@aardrian) March 18, 2021
Remember, you do not have to take a call with them. If you want to give them your feedback, bill them. At $40m they can afford your time as an expert user.
So, as you’ll see, it makes it pretty important to discuss what they actually do (and not what they say they do).
What is the problem with Accessibe?
If something is too good to be true, it probably is. And it’s no different with Accessibe.
As Adrian Roselli has so meticulously detailed, they aren’t going to make your website accessible. In fact, it might even open up your website to potential lawsuits (and it’s been referenced in lawsuits already). Seriously, go check out Rosell’s post just to see how messed up the product is.
But just to briefly sum up those problems, Accessibe just doesn’t work. It’s not a suitable substitute for manually checking your website for accessibility issues and fixing those problems. And it likely never will.
Also, they have been accused of paying for positive reviews. And in one case they were actually caught with questionable positive reviews of their WordPress plugin. They’ve also gone out of their way to remove negative comments of their product.
Plus as Roselli points out, they’ve also made very confusing comments about the WCAG and ADA guidelines (i.e. claiming it offers ADA compliance even though the ADA doesn’t explicitly cover websites, which is a different discussion altogether).
It seems as though Accessibe is a modern-era snake oil salesman that you’re best off avoiding.
Why you should not use Accessibe
Accessibe is not going to make your website accessible. The truth is that no overlay is going to accomplish that on your website.
And to make things even worse, it probably will make your site’s accessibility even worse. In fact, a number of people have said that they’ve had to block Accessibe’s IP address so that it doesn’t take effect on websites using it so that they can actually navigate the website.
I had to proactively block #AccessiBe from my network to regain access to my domain registrar and apartment rent portal. To date, not even an apology from them much less a fix. These overlay companies are scams. Avoid. https://t.co/p5TA3EyOGJ— Steve (@ed_edwardson) March 20, 2021
As I’ve said before, there’s really no replacement for manual work and testing to see if your website is accessible. There is no magic bullet and there won’t be.
You’re better off working on it yourself than having to rely on a company that has had a lot of issues and could potentially put your website at legal risk.
How to make sure your website is accessible
It takes some work to make sure your website is accessible, but it certainly is possible.
First, you can use automated testing tools to check to see if your webpages are compliant with the various accessibility standards out there. I wrote a blog post that goes over a few of the top ones. But the good news is that there are tools that work right in your browser and are free to use.
Another easy thing to do is to make sure that all of your images have alternative text. This is text that shows up in place of the image if it can’t be loaded, and screen readers use this to describe the image to the user. Plus, search engines use alt text when indexing your webpages, so it can have an effect on SEO too. And if you use a content management system, like WordPress, it’s really easy to add in the alt text.
Also, check to make sure the heading structure is correct. There should only be one H1 tag on a webpage, which is usually the page or post title. If you’re using a CMS, this should be added automatically. Inside your content, each top-level heading should be an H2 tag. And any subheadings inside of those sections should be an H3. And you rinse and repeat for H4, H5 and H6. The headings on a page create an outline for a user on a screen reader, which helps them navigate the content.
Next, you’ll want to make sure that the background and text colors on your website, including buttons, have the right color contrast. You can use the Web AIM Color Contrast Checker to do this by entering in the colors’ hex code. From there you can fix any color problems, although depending on your website you might need to ask a developer to help you out.
Finally, there’s no substitute for manually testing your website. Use only your keyboard to navigate your website. Can you do it? If not, you need to think about what you can do to make that possible.
Because at the end of the day, your website needs to be accessible to everyone who uses the internet.
Build an accessible website
Are you looking to create a new website for your business and want to make sure it’s accessible from the start? No problem. Whether you want to create the custom website design or build something that works with your budget, your website will be as accessible as possible when it’s launched.
I’ll work with you to make sure all of the colors have the right contrast, that images uploaded . And the theme, whether custom or prebuilt will be tested to make sure that there aren’t any accessibility issues with it (and if there are they will be fixed before launch).
And you’ll get help and tips so that you can keep your website accessible as you use it.
So let’s get started on creating a new accessible website for your business.
Accessibility check your WordPress website
Have a WordPress website that you want to have checked a number of times throughout the year for accessibility concerns? You can get that when you sign up for one of the WordPress Website Care plans.
Once your site is set up on the new hosting, I’ll run a check on it for accessibility and keep doing that once a month while you’re on the plan. And any fixes that are needed are already included in the price of the plan. You don’t have to worry about anything. And you’ll get accessibility tips so you can keep your content accessible as well.
Plus, you’ll get top of the line web hosting through WP Engine, managed WordPress core, plugin and theme updates, daily backups, security enhancements and more. It’s website hosting that will actually improve your website.
So get started on making sure your website is accessible today!