[Athen] UserWay

Russell Solowoniuk solowoniukr at macewan.ca
Fri Feb 21 12:50:27 PST 2020

Hi all,

Getting to this a little late, but I just came across the following article regarding using overlays as an accessibility solution in the last WebAIM newsletter. It’s quite interesting.


Have a great weekend,


From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> On Behalf Of Lucy GRECO
Sent: Tuesday, February 11, 2020 2:06 PM
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: [Athen] UserWay

i wanted to add one more worning about this kind of tool bar. as a screen reader user i find these overlays get in my way and end up blocking me from using an already hard to use or an accessible web site. many of these over lays will draw focus continually witch then means that the screen reader user can not get to any thing elce on the page. i find then more problematic then any thing elce you could do on a web site.lucy

Lucia Greco
Web Accessibility Evangelist
IST - Architecture, Platforms, and Integration
University of California, Berkeley
(510) 289-6008 skype: lucia1-greco
Follow me on twitter @accessaces

On Tue, Feb 11, 2020 at 12:51 PM Sean Keegan <skeegan at ccctechcenter.org<mailto:skeegan at ccctechcenter.org>> wrote:
Hi Carrie,

> Just curious is any of you have used UserWay (userway.org<http://userway.org>)?

I am familiar with UserWay (and a few other accessibility "overlays") and am generally not a fan. If you were to offer this tool on top of a website that is already accessible, then that's fine as it does provide some unique options to modify the website content that a person with a disability might find useful. That said, several of the "features" offered by the widget are already present in most modern web browsers. Additionally, if a person needs that accessibility support, it seems to me that he/she would likely need that support on many of the web pages they use, not just on the site that provides the overlay.

A problem that I see with such overlays is that you still have a website with accessibility problems. Sure, the overlay may mitigate some issues, but the problems still exist and need to be corrected. Putting on rose colored glasses may make everything look rosy, but the accessibility problems exist and can still pose barriers. For instance, what happens when the college decides to stop paying for the remediation service portion? You now have those same accessibility issues that have been kicked down the road. I know the UserWay widget itself is free, but it is also combined with the remediation service to address accessibility issues.

Also, I find that a lot of students, faculty, staff are using resources that are not necessarily part of the college's public facing website. There is a learning management system, library databases, Google Docs/Office 365 Online environments, publisher content, etc. If an institution is pursuing an overlay solution, restricting it to just the public-facing website does not offer support to the web environments in which students, faculty, and staff may be utilizing on a daily basis.

If the intent is to fix the underlying web page for accessibility errors, then I see adding such an overlay is a "nice-to-have" and can offer site visitors the opportunity to customize their user experience. However, the concern I would raise is that the commitment to fix the accessibility errors can diminish quickly with the adoption of an overlay as the perception becomes any problems have now magically disappeared.

Take care,

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