The four pillars of accessibility overlay marketing
Fear, Guilt, Inspiration Porn, and Pay to Play
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Accessibility overlays are tools that detect and dynamically repair HTML accessibility issues in non-mobile environments. And what accessibility manager or product owner WOULDN’T want a solution that does that? Write an annual check and presto change-o your site is accessible, which means you don’t get sued. Unfortunately, that’s a lot too good to be true.
I have written numerous stories on what I feel are the negatives of using accessibility overlays, including discussions on:
- Overlays not being a valid solution to *anyone’s* accessibility problems;
- How overlays must have been developed by people who didn’t understand how people with disabilities engage with assistive technology;
- Reminding people that getting sued while using an overlay is now a trend that almost 10 % of defendants in accessibility litigation are experiencing;
- A recent ADA lawsuit settlement that involved an accessibility overlay;
The impact of overlays on customers with disabilities is more than just the immediate website barrier to a person with a disability. Researchers at Cornell just concluded that overly positive feedback leads to poor assistive technology. Put more simply — people stop researching because they think the bad technology has solved the problem. My conclusion is that overlays create both immediate and long-term problems, and much of that is caused by their misleading marketing. Here is what I see as the four motivating sources behind most overlay marketing materials.
Fear (Punishment) / Guilt
The Grand Dame of accessibility herself, Lainey Feingold, authored the article titled, “Fear is a Poor Motivator for Accessibility.” Her work extended earlier work done in 2012 by WebAIM’s Jared Smith, where he wrote that:
Guilt and punishment are the…