Today I submitted the PR to sign the Overlay Fact Sheet. I did not do this lightly. In this post, I explain why I did.
What the factsheet is all about
To quote the conclusion of the Overlay Factsheet:
Accessibility on the Web is a big challenge, both for owners of websites and for the users of those websites. The invention of novel approaches to resolving this challenge is to be commended. However, in the case of overlays
- especially those which attempt to add widgets that present assistive features - the challenge is not being met. Even more problematic are the deceptive marketing provided by some overlay vendors who promise that implementing their product will give their customer's sites immediate compliance with laws and standards.
No overlay product on the market can cause a website to become fully compliant with any existing accessibility standard and therefore cannot eliminate legal risk.
Why I signed
I view front-end development as a craft. I take pride in code that is readable and maintainable, in interfaces that make sense to its users. I try my best to become good in what I do. It takes commitment and dedication to reach that. And like with anything that takes dedication to master, a good front-end is not cheap.
Front-end development is not a matter of ticking boxes, or putting colour onto various elements. You should be able to look past your own experiences, think about someone else; the user of your work, the browser that user is using and the context in which the user is operating.
A part of the code that we write can be automatically checked and fixed. But for a pretty big portion that is not an option. It is the human part of our work. Our ability to research how our users interact with our product, translate that into a good and accessible user interface, can never be automated. Because making your product accessible, comes down to building it so that it makes sense to your user. That is, by definition, subjective. And computers can not make choices in subjective matters.
Therefore, tools that promise to make a website accessible with a single line of code, can never fix issues that require human thinking.
When they do make that promise, they false advertise.
And degrading the craft of front-end development with it.