ADA widgets and overlays will get you sued!

List OF ADA Widgets & Overlays:

  • UserWay
  • accessiBe
  • AudioEye
  • Equalweb
  • Compliance Sheriff
  • UsableNet

Do you think that adding a widget or overlay will reduce the chances of being sued in the future?

Definitely not! In fact, it may even increase the risk of it occurring. There are two major reasons for this.

In the majority of plaintiff firms, accessibility scanners are used in order to scan potential defendant websites for accessibility compliance. There is little chance of these scanning tools picking up widgets and overlays in a reliable way. As a result, your site will “scan” in exactly the same way whether or not it has a widget. Some overlays may try to create mechanisms to pass automated testing tools to address this check, however, they still fail to address the fundamental functional issues impacting real users on the site.

There is a growing number of lawsuits that aren’t actually citing issues of conformity to the WCAG these days. According to them, issues of functionality are important – things that have an impact on an individual’s ability to use a site. As for the widgets, they will have no impact on that, as they are based on the underlying site with respect to functionality and core paths of use.

You don’t have to take our word for it. I would like to run you through a few recent lawsuits that cite the use of widgets on websites as continuing to be non-compliant. Those widgets, when deployed – and they failed to meet the accessibility needs (see first point)- were cited as evidence that ongoing discrimination was still taking place. I guess from that perspective you’re back to the original point – just slapping a fix on a problem that you know is not going to yield full and equal access to information can end up worsening the situation.

The overlay and widget makers say they’ll certify or indemnify me. Is that real?

Definitely not. It seems that many widget vendors are positioning their solutions as if they were insurance policies. It is verbally stated, and written boldly on the website, that the organization will cover all the costs of litigation in the event that they are ever sued. If you look at the terms and conditions and actual contracts, however, such liability is wholly and completely disclaimed and waived. In the event of a lawsuit, the vendor will have taken on zero legal or financial liability. There are two main costs in such situations – litigation costs and remediation costs – for the website as well as for the procedures. It is worthless to have a certification or indemnization if you do not have explicit protection from them.

Also, mechanically, it’s very difficult to simply “indemnify away” your ADA obligations. It is common for plaintiffs to seek injunctive relief in these cases to order the defendant to change their business practices (policies, procedures, etc.) in order to ensure compliance with the law. Unless the website’s maintenance and operations are handled by a third party – in which case it’s going to be exceptionally expensive – there are likely to be some requirements for the core entity that can’t be indemnified away.

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