Bye Bye, Farewell, You’re Leavin’.

More and more often, I’m seeing these screen-reader accessibility overlays. They promise better accessibility for screen-reader users. At best, they do nothing. At worst, they make things worse. I saw one at Mastermind Toys that was making it virtually impossible to shop there. If they didn’t have a chat function, the Seppa-Tebby-Tebby nephew wouldn’t have gotten his birthday presents. The companies who make them claim that their overlays will make a website accessible, and well-meaning webmasters think this is the fast-track to making their websites compliant with accessibility-related legislation at the very least. But they don’t, and people need to stop using them and start doing the work to fix their sites. Wanting an accessible web by 2025 is a great goal, but slapping a few lines of code in your header and calling it done is not the way to get there. All that does is make it so users who complain can’t get any traction because the company has a response of “We put in screen-reader support, what more do you want?”

If you run into them and wish they would go away because they’re not helping, now there’s the AccessiByeBye Chrome extension.

If you use a screen reader and have been prompted to press a hotkey to turn on some website’s screen reader mode, you’ve likely encountered the category of website add-ons known as accessibility overlays. There are several accessibility overlays, including AccessiBe, AudioEye, EqualWeb, MaxAccess, TruAbilities, User1st, and UserWay.
We know that while these overlays are supposed to make websites more accessible, they’re actually annoying and often counter-productive. That’s why we made AccessiByeBye, a simple and free extension for Chrome and compatible browsers, that blocks them all.
Just install AccessiByeBye into Chrome or a compatible browser, and those pesky overlays won’t bother you again. There’s no catch. We don’t collect your web browsing habits or other personal information, and the AccessiByeBye extension won’t slow down your computer. If you ever decide you do want one of those overlays, it’s easy to turn off the extension at any time.

Just for fun, I installed the extension and went back to Mastermind Toys. It was still inaccessible as hell, which is sad because it was pretty accessible back in November, but there were a lot more buttons visible to me. They were not labeled, but I might have been able to figure out what they did and I might have had more ability to get what I wanted out of the site eventually. The accessibility overlay had just hidden them from me. And, with or without the overlay, information about whether shipping was available was still inaccessible to me, along with who knows what else. So Mastermind Toys feels warm and fuzzy about their accessibility overlay while it still goes on having an inaccessible website. By the way, Mastermind Toys, if you ever want me to buy from you again through your website, never get rid of your chat box. Those people worked miracles, figured out what the site was trying to tell me, and made it so I could buy stuff. If you take that away, I won’t be shopping there again until you fix your site because it’s a smoldering disaster zone. This breaks my heart because your toys are friggin amazing!

Accessibility is not a checkbox, a one and done, a line of code. It’s something that needs to be built in from the ground up, and maintained by your developers as part of their job. If you do it from the beginning, you will find the cost to be minimal and the process to be easy. These accessibility overlays need to go, and that’s why they’re gone from my Google Chrome, at least.

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