2019 Review: AccessiBe Automatic Website Solution Accessibility Using AI

AccessiBe amounts to a toolbar overlay and it won’t make your website accessible for numerous reasons.

Overlays that are supposedly for 100% complete website accessibility and ADA + 508 compliance are being pitched by numerous vendors and they don’t work.

For some of the many reasons why, visit OverlaysDontWork.com by Karl Groves.

Besides AccessiBe, Make Sense (MK-Sense.com), Get ADA Comply (GetADAComply.com), EqualWeb (EqualWeb.com), Max Access (MaxAccess.io) and UserWay (UserWay.org) are all overlays and I’m sure there are more.  Anything that says it’s an instant fix is instantly telling you that it isn’t a real fix.

Making a website truly accessible takes manual remediation.  There is no way around this.

You may think, well they’ll at least make my website more accessible until I fix it.

Websites using overlays are now being sued.

Here are three of the five companies mentioned in the blog post above that have AccessiBe installed as of July 24, 2020:

Williams vs. ViperDNA
Fredericka Nellon v. Agri Beef Co.
Ariza v. Carmen Sol FL, LLC

Relatedly, accessibility expert Adrian Roselli posted an excellent rundown titled #AccessiBe will get you sued.

You will not be accessible within 48 hours with AccessiBe because they’re not actually doing the remediation necessary to make a website accessible, they’re only installing a piece of JavaScript code that opens up a toolbar menu of options – many of which are redundant with those already found in screen readers.

Again, there is nothing on the market that can make your website accessible in two days. A toolbar overlay does not make your website accessible.

Also, there is no AI solution that makes your website accessible. We are years away from this taking hold. There is no product on the market remotely close to offering automated accessibility.

A toolbar overlay does not address your website’s actual accessibility and here’s a very fundamental and practical reason why: If a user doesn’t know to activate or doesn’t want to activate the toolbar overlay, then the inaccessible elements of your website remain.

But even if AccessiBe was able to instantly fix every programmatic accessibility issue with your website (and it absolutely does not), it still wouldn’t address the alternatives to media that are crucial to accessibility (headings, closed captions, alt text, text transcripts, audio descriptions).

Website accessibility requires manual remediation and only a small fraction of accessibility issues can be discovered with a scan. The toolbar Accessibe offers is only marginally helpful and is actually redundant for users of screen readers (i.e., AccessiBe behaves like a different screen reader when screen reader users already have their own.)

Again, no toolbar instantly overlay/widget/plugin automatically remediates or fixes your website for complete accessibility. The best scans only catch roughly 1/4 of WCAG 2.1 AA issues – and that’s catch, not fix.

Previously updated review:

I was extremely skeptical upon first glance for two main reasons:

  1. They make they bold and impossible claim that they are the “only 100% automatic web accessibility solution”
  2. They cost $289 annually (UPDATE: Now $365 – June 12 UPDATE: Now $490).

Nevertheless, I scheduled a demo to see what they were all about.  Below is my review.

First and foremost, they should not be claiming to make your website accessible within 2 days or whatever lightning fast turnaround because they cannot deliver that.

Manual remediation is always necessary to make a website accessible.

Website accessibility is not a quick fix – you can’t just paste JavaScript code and have AI update your alt text and think you’ve got an accessible website.

If you’re a website owner just trying to figure out if this is a possible solution, let me just offer you this very flatly and quickly:

Installing AccessiBe basically amounts to putting a toolbar on your website that can make some adjustments of the website.  But it does not make the website itself accessible.  Moreover, many of the adjustments are already taken care of by screen readers for people who would most likely take advantage of said adjustments.

As for the demo, I talked to their Chief Technology Officer or CTO, Shir Ekerling.

Here’s a Q&A style outline of my review:

How good is the AI?

Shir told me it takes care of 96% of accessibility issues (me: no, it doesn’t).  However, this is for certain website issues, not multi-media problems.  One service AccessiBe offers separately is creating transcripts and closed captioning for audio and video.  If you have significant audio and video, this will halt your path to accessibility as text transcripts and closed captioning is a large obstacle to becoming accessible.  PDFs require a separate package too.

What is their approach?

AccessiBe premises their product on WCAG 2.0.

They then take care of the easy fixes, what Shir referred to as 30% of accessibility such as color contrast, font size, font families, and animations.  This all comes from their interface which is available for website users if you click on an icon (customizable on the client’s end).

Next, they run AI to try and fix the rest of the non-accessible elements on the website.

How long does it take to finish?

I believe Shir said 2-3 days.  It may have been 4.  Whatever it was, it was only a few days.

What about WCAG 2.1?

They said they’re working on it.

What’s something that impressed you?

AccessiBe’s image recognition can scan images and automatically assign alt text values to them.  The image recognition can potentially extract images of text and convey that in the alt text – that’s potentially helpful, especially for companies that have hundreds, thousands, even millions of images.

The problem is if AccessiBe’s toolbar overlay isn’t activated, plaintiffs’ law firms won’t know about the alt text when they run an automated scan.

They also said they have worked with one of the JAWS (popular screen reader) developers.

What is my impression?

They do not deliver website accessibility in a box – not even close.

Their claims of instant ADA compliance / accessibility are impossible.

Practically speaking,  Accessibe might be good in the sense that a few plaintiffs’ law firms might see it and steer away but I can guarantee your inaccessible website elements, content, functioning does not automatically become accessible when you install AcccessiBe.