A client I am working with wants to make use of an automated accessibility solution in order to meet compliance standards. Particularly, they've mentioned AccessiBe.
I've got no experience with such a tool. The client had been hostile to accessibility concerns until their legal department weighed in, believing (wrongly I know) that accessibility necessarily meant compromising design. They've got a particular disdain for blue focus state boxes.
They've settled on an automated solution for two reasons:
- They believe they can install this and never think about accessibility again.
- They seem convinced this tool allows "session based" accessibility, so the accessibility features they hate won't show up until someone explicitly opts in to them using the accessibility interface this tool will add to their site.
I'm curious about what this tool can do, but also somewhat skeptical. If anyone has used this sort of tool I've got a few questions.
- Do opt-in accessibility features as opposed to features enabled on page load meet compliance standards? This seems like a shortcut to me.
- To what degree are automated tools like this just ways of passing automated accessibility tests rather than actually improving accessibility? For example, AccessiBe says it will automatically generate Alt tags via AI image recognition... Not only am I skeptical in it's ability to get this right, it seems like this will just generate extra noise for people using screen readers, when sometimes the best alt tag is just alt="".
- Will this tool actually get around the clients concerns about design compromises, or will it just automatically put back all the things they hate? It looks like for blue focus states it opts-in as soon as you start hitting the tab key. What about text that doesn't meet contrast standards. Will it change the contrast, or only on opt-in? Links that don't look like links until you hover on them... will it even recognize that there's an issue, and if so what will it do?