Separate and Unequal: Overlay Widgets Discriminate Under Title III of the ADA

Accessibility overlays do not make your website accessible.

Also, they are discriminatory if you read through Title III of the ADA.

So I will summarize two subsections now.

Participation in Unequal Benefit:

It shall be discriminatory to afford, on the basis of disability, and accommodation that is not equal to that afforded to other individuals.

Separate Benefit:

It shall be discriminatory to provide, on the basis of disability, an accommodation that is different or separate from that provided to other individuals unless such action is necessary to provide an accommodation or other opportunity that is as effective as that provided to others.

Well I’ve already told you that website accessibility overlays are not effective and they don’t work at all. And that’s why I’ve deemed them as fake or fugazi accessibility.

It’s pretend accessibility.

Overlays are meant to be sold to website owners, but they are not meant to make a website accessible.

So they’re not made to ensure access for people with disabilities when using a website; they are made to give the appearance that they will do so.

They are made to give this impression or illusion of accessibility that’s just not there.

And so on the white board behind me, I have a rudimentary drawing of a website with a header and main body of content and a sidebar. And then on the very bottom there’s an accessibility icon and I have that superimposed to show a widget.

And at the top of the widget disability profile and then there are any number of settings that can be adjusted.

So, for example, you can make the text larger or you can change the color contrast, etc.

But access is provided through the remediation of code and content.

It is not provided through an accessibility widget with this menu of various settings so accessibility overlays do not work.

They are not a solution, they do not make your website accessible.

But for the purposes of this video, let’s assume that they do work.

And let’s focus in on the separate and unequal experience that is created.

So the first question I have written on the white board is, why do I have to reveal my disability to use this to use this effectively?

So on the disability profile, there are any number of disabilities that can be chosen that will change how the website is rendered.

Well why do I have to volunteer my disability?

That sounds separate in and of itself.

That doesn’t sound separate.

It is separate, it is unequal.

Why do I have to undergo this learning curve?

So if I have a disability how come I have to go through and figure out what these settings are, find out how they apply, and then choose the ones that are right for me.

That’s a whole separate task when all I wanted to do was visit a website to buy something, to find out some information.

And now I have to go through and make all of these adjustments just so I can have access.

That is separate and that is unequal.

Will this widget interfere with the use of my own assistive technology. How?

So sometimes people with disabilities are using assistive technology and the question is going to come up, well then how is it going to affect my use of my AT that I’m already familiar with, that I already have my settings locked in on?

And now I have this widget.

How do these two interplay?

And so, again, we have a separate and unequal experience whereas before, if the website was accessible, I could simply go in there and do whatever I wanted.

Now I have to go do this unnecessary middleman that has been stuck between my use of the website and my assistive technology or just my wanting to interact with the website.

What if I don’t notice the widget?

Not everybody is going to notice that there is a small icon and/or know what that icon means.

What if I don’t want to use this widget?

Not everybody wants to activate a widget – many people don’t.

For what reason?

Well what I have written next would apply:

What are the privacy implications of using this widget?

So what happens – are cookies going to be embedded into my computer?

Am I going to be served different ads now because advertisers know have a disability?

What is going to happen? What is the privacy policy here?

Well what- now do I have to go to the websites privacy policy, what if the privacy policy- the policy of the company doesn’t mention this widget that’s present on the website?

Now what will now I don’t know and now I’m at an impasse.

Do I need to adjust the settings for each page?

What if I’m on the home page now but what if the content changes to where I’m on a product page and I’m checking out – do the settings need to be adjusted? Probably, which settings?

I don’t know I have to go in and figure this out.


Because it’s a separate and unequal experience.