Re: advocates slam company claiming to make websites ADA compliant!


Hi Andy:

I agree with you. The most accessible websites are those that have had accessibility built-in from the ground up. The only way to do that is to hire the right web developer who knows how to build an accessible website from the ground up. That requires that the business owner has enough common sense to require that of any web designer he or she hires. Knowing how to make a website truly accessible should be one of the requirements for hiring a web designer along with all of the other requirements one might demand of that web designer.

During the early days of the Internet, I worked with a friend who designed websites in his spare time. He was on an email list with other web developers. As he got to know me, he began to discuss accessibility with these other web developers. Most of them told him that they had no problem making websites accessible, it was just that they never thought about it. The thought of making a website accessible to blind people never occurred to them until someone pointed out to them that they should do so.

In those days, my friends solution to making websites accessible to the blind was to develop a separate website that only had text on it. He did that for the radio station we were working for. He designed a separate website that had no graphics and it was just plain text. He placed a link to the text only website at the top of the radio stations regular website. He made sure that there was a note on the regular website indicating where the link was and that blind people needed to press the enter key on that link to get to the accessible website. That was how the problem was solved in those days.


On May 17, 2021, at 11:30 AM, Mich Verrier <> wrote:

Yes I agree. Also I have run into websights that use this company and I have installd accessibie be gone so I can block it from interfearing with my websight brosing. I also have shaird that artickle on facebook. From Mich.

-----Original Message-----
From: <> On Behalf Of Andy
Sent: May 17, 2021 2:29 PM
Subject: Re: [TechTalk] advocates slam company claiming to make websites ADA compliant!

i have found that most of these accessibility solutions do not help blind folks who use screen readers, in fact, i recall one solution that actually stated that up front. They may be of some help to partially sighted folks, as they allow for things like changing colors, font shapes and sizes, etc, but some are just scamming the web site developers into thinking that this will keep them safe from litigation. The best accessibility is when accesibility is built into the site from the ground up.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Victor" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, May 17, 2021 12:09 AM
Subject: Re: [TechTalk] advocates slam company claiming to make websites ADA compliant!

Hi Janet:

Thank you for sharing this article. I’ve never heard of this particular company, but the article was interesting and this issue is always of interest to me. I’ve just shared it on my Facebook and Twitter accounts.


On May 16, 2021, at 10:53 PM, Janet <> wrote:

Hi All!
I was just catching up on some reading before going to bed, and I came
across this interesting article, and I would like to share.


Blind people, advocates slam company claiming to make websites ADA
compliant "If you have a website, do you want to include disabled
people or do you want to exclude them? That's why it's a civil right,"
one expert said.
Chancey Fleet, a technology educator who is vice president of National
Federation of the Blind in New York, was invited to a private meeting
with AccessiBe executives in February after she tweeted concerns about
the product.Sara Naomi Lewkowicz / for NBC May 9, 2021, 5:00 AM CDT By
April Glaser Throughout the pandemic, as blind people, like everyone
else, became increasingly dependent on websites to purchase goods, one
of the fastest-growing companies that works with clients like Oreo
cookies and Energizer batteries to make their websites more accessible
has been engulfed in an increasingly contentious relationship with
blind people. Many blind people say its product is making it harder
for them to navigate the web.
In recent months, blind people and disability advocates have been
speaking out on social media and suing companies that use AccessiBe.
Blind people say AccessiBe, which is supposed to automatically make
websites more compatible with the screen readers blind people rely on
to access the internet, has prevented them from all sorts of normal
activities online, like paying rent, teaching a class or buying
Christmas gifts.
AccessiBe is the largest automated accessibility company on the
market, according to Lucy Greco, who is blind and the head of web
accessibility at the University of California, Berkeley.

The situation has gotten so bad that in the past two months more than
400 blind people, accessibility advocates and software developers
signed an open letter calling on companies that use automated
services, like AccessiBe and other companies with similar products, to
"We will refuse to stay silent when overlay vendors use deception to
market their products," the letter said.
AccessiBe markets itself on its website as a $49-a-month tool that
helps companies protect themselves from not complying with the
Americans With Disabilities Act by adding a single line of code to the
backends of websites. AccessiBe also offers support for websites that
are sued and claims to bring them into compliance.
The company boasts that over 132,000 websites use its product,
including name brands such as Pillsbury, Benadryl, Playmobil and the
Los Angeles Lakers, as well as some government agencies, such as the
Louisiana Department of Health and the state's Department of Public
Safety and Corrections. In February,

AccessiBe announced
it received $28 million in funding from a private equity firm called
K1 Investment Management.
While the company has celebrated its growth and funding in press
releases and blog posts, many blind people and disability advocates on
social media say they have experienced problems when trying to use
sites that have installed AccessiBe. They say when they visit those
sites, it can prevent screen readers
- which read out loud what's on websites, including image
descriptions, menus and buttons - from reading the pages correctly and
has rendered some websites they used to use unnavigable.
"If a consumer comes into difficulty or problems with these sites, the
site owner can say, 'Hey, we comply with the accessibility guidelines.
So you have no case'" to sue, said Steve Clower, a blind software
developer who specializes in accessibility.
After Clower's apartment's rent payment website adopted AccessiBe last
summer, he said the compatibility with his screen reader was so thrown
off that he had to ask a friend to help him write his rent check that
month. The experience was so frustrating that Clower published a guide
to block AccessiBe that he named "AccessiBe Gone."
"We understand there can be a learning curve for users," Roy Gefen,
chief marketing officer at AccessiBe, said in a statement, adding that
misunderstandings of how AccessiBe works has confused some users. The
company has also created a dedicated team to receive customer
feedback, he said.
But when blind users pointed out these issues in detailed blog posts,
YouTube videos and on social media, some say the company called their
critiques "hostile"
and often invited those who raised concerns publicly into closed
meetings with the company's CEO, Shir Ekerling.
In an email, Ekerling said people who criticize the company online are
largely stirred by "thought leaders" who are rallying blind people in
a "huge campaign"
against the company with few specific critiques.
"Almost no one gives any specifics to actual websites that really
don't work for them," Ekerling wrote in an email. "This is because
they don't really test us, nor have really used us. At most, they went
on a website out of anger and didn't even try to understand."
Gefen said he believes some pushback is expected for new technologies
with new ways of doing things, "especially from professionals within
the industry who directly compete with AccessiBe."
AccessiBe isn't the only product that claims to provide an automated,
quick solution to make websites compliant with accessibility standards.
Greco, at the University of California, Berkeley, said other companies
have similar products that have many of the same technical issues
AccessiBe does.
But AccessiBe stands out because of its rapid growth, heavy marketing
and defensive style of engagement with blind people who claim it
hasn't worked for them.
"I think the thing that's gotten people mostly on edge is that the
marketing makes us into the bad guys instead of users who want to use
a website's services,"
Greco said.
Federal lawsuits claiming websites are not compliant with the ADA rose
12 percent last year, according to an analysis on the Seyfarth ADA
Title III News and Insights Blog by attorneys who specialize in
disability compliance. Thousands of lawsuits are filed each year
claiming websites are not accessible, and AccessiBe said its product
is a way to help protect companies from litigation.
"Accessibility is really about inclusion or exclusion. If you have a
website, do you want to include disabled people or do you want to
exclude them? That's why it's a civil right," said Lainey Feingold, a
civil rights lawyer who has worked on digital accessibility since the
mid-1990s, including the first U.S.
settlements that made ATMs talk and pedestrian signals audible. "The
whole idea of disability rights is about disabled people participating
in society, and in 2021, without digital accessibility that
participation is impossible."
Avoiding lawsuits
AccessiBe has been cited in at least two recent lawsuits by people who
claim the websites don't comply with the ADA, including one case
against an eyeglasses company named Eyebobs.
In that case, the plaintiff used testimony provided by Karl Groves, an
accessibility auditor, software developer and expert witness in the case.
analyzed 50 websites
that use AccessiBe and testified that he found thousands of problems
on the sites that could interfere with their compatibility with screen
readers. That lawsuit was referred to mediation last month. Court
records show that the company denied any transgressions.
The other case, which involved Masterbuilt Manufacturing, a grill
company, was settled, followed by a voluntary dismissal in March,
court records show.
Ekerling, the CEO, said in an email that he works with companies every
week dealing with accessibility legal issues to help them become
compliant. AccessiBe denies that Eyebobs and Masterbuilt Manufacturing
were using its product at the times identified in the lawsuits.
The company's framing that it provides web accessibility to help avoid
lawsuits hasn't helped its relationship with blind people.
"It capitalizes on this fear that disabled people are out there to sue
you and make your life difficult," said Holly Scott-Gardner, a blind
person and disability rights advocate who raised concerns on Twitter
and on her blog about how AccessiBe didn't work for her. "It furthers
this really horrible view of disabled people that we're literally out
there to get money and that we just use our disabilities for that."
Community tensions
Chancey Fleet, a technology educator and vice president of National
Federation of the Blind in New York who is blind, was invited to a
private meeting with AccessiBe executives in February after tweeting
concerns about the product.
In leaked audio of the meeting obtained by NBC News, Ekerling said
disability advocates and his company share the same goal of making the
web more accessible and that their voicing their concerns about
AccessiBe's functionality was a "demonization" of the company.
Chancey Fleet.Sara Naomi Lewkowicz / for NBC News figure
"'Demonization' is not a term that I feel comfortable with," Fleet said.
"I'm talking about collective harms that occur."
In an email, Ekerling said AccessiBe listens to its critics and has
hired people who provided feedback to join its accessibility testing
groups. He also said, "We employ many people with disabilities (most
of them are blind)."
For now the problems between AccessiBe and users of its tools only
seem to be growing more contentious - especially because blind users
say they can't escape its omnipresence in the visually impaired
Haben Girma, a civil rights lawyer and author who is deaf and blind,
said she had problems using AccessiBe's own site when she visited it in March.
noted that AccessiBe sticks out over other companies that offer
automated solutions for ADA compliance because the company's ads are everywhere.
"They have spent an alarming amount of money on advertising," Girma said.
"Encountering these ads online feels like a personal attack on my
The big fear that many in the visually impaired community shared is
that this will keep blind people who are new to screen readers from
accessing parts of the internet.
Amy Mason, a technology instructor at the Lighthouse for the Blind and
Visually Impaired in San Francisco who is blind, said she first
encountered AccessiBe at the end of last year when teaching a student
how to use screen readers, visiting a website where they could shop
for gifts around Christmas. When they got to the website with
AccessiBe, every few seconds it kept prompting them to enable
AccessiBe's screen reader mode.
"And every 30 seconds, my student, who was new to screen readers, was
getting completely thrown back to the top of the page. We couldn't
access the site because this was screaming at us the whole time,"
Mason said. When they did enable the screen reader mode, Mason said
all the headings that organize a website to be read back to blind
people had fallen out of order.
Mason complained about her experience on Twitter, and in response
AccessiBe invited her to watch a demonstration of the product by
Ekerling, which she declined. The company said it has since fixed the
issue with the repeated prompts to enable AccessiBe.
"As an expert, for me, most of these sites are going to be kind of
annoying," Mason said. "For my students, it might just be an end game,
where they just can't access that website or that service."
April Glaser
April Glaser is a reporter on the tech investigations team for NBC
News in San Francisco.
article end

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