What Is An Accessibility Overlay?

An accessible overlay is an important part of ensuring your website is ADA compliant. By providing a text equivalent for every image on your website, you can ensure that everyone, regardless of ability, has access to the same information. This article will provide a brief overview of what an accessible overlay is and how to code one in HTML5.

What Is An Accessibility Overlay?

An accessible overlay provides a text alternative to any images on your website. Providing this alternative ensures that everyone has access to the same information as those who can see the image regardless of ability. The accessible overlay is often used when an image conveys important information and requires a user’s full attention, such as presenting alerts or messages requiring immediate action. It also provides accessibility for users who may be unable to view images (e.g., low vision, blindness, or screen glare). Users whose browsers do not support HTML5 tags, including older versions of Internet Explorer before version 9.

An accessible overlay consists of three parts:

  • An open tag with an “id” attribute containing the name of the image being described by the text within it
  • A close tag
  • A text description

Benefits Of An Accessibility Overlay

There are several reasons to use accessible overlays on your website:

  • Ensure that your website is compliant with federal disability laws such as Section 508 and WCAG 1.
  • Ensure that all visitors can access and understand information on your website regardless of ability.
  • To make sure screen reader users (including those who use keyboard navigation) understand what is going on before entering a page or section of your website.

How To Create An Accessibility Overlay

The easiest way to create an accessible overlay is to use HTML5. The HTML5 code for the open tag will look something like this:

<div id=”banner-message”>

Tools That Can Help

There are several free tools available to assist with creating accessible overlays:

WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool)

An online tool by WebAIM that analyzes the accessibility of a web page and explains where improvements can be made.

TraceAccess Chrome Extension

A Chrome extension allows you to toggle on the text description of the images on a web page by simply clicking on each image.

Tom Gilder’s Overlay Creator

An online tool created by Tom Gilder allows you to create overlays using either HTML5 or Flash for use with your website.

How to Get Started

To create accessible overlays, you can either code them yourself or use a tool such as WAVE. Alternatively, many eCommerce and CMS systems, such as Shopify, can create them automatically for you. The quickest way to get started is to open your site in WAVE, look under the “Images” menu for images that do not have a text equivalent and use one of the tools mentioned above to create an overlay. The WAVE tool will then analyze your overlays, providing you with suggestions for improvement along with annotated screenshots of each image.

Final Thoughts

Overlays offer people with disabilities a way to access information on your website. That is why you must create accessible overlays and provide text alternatives for all images on your site.