The Userway accessibility plugin is a free web accessibility solution designed to make the interaction of people with disabilities easier on websites.
This plugin is actually “software” installed on browsers and interact directly on client’s devices. Userway can be implemented quickly on any website and necessary adjustments can be made without incurring expenses.
However as cheap and easy as it is to implement, it might come at a cost.
In this review, we’ll address both the good and bad features of Userway, as well as discuss web accessibility and its implications and importance in-depth.
First, why do you need an accessible website?
Reason #1 – more purchasing power. Accessible websites allow an easier interaction for people with various disabilities that could not have interacted otherwise. In other words, if your website is accessible and your competitors isn’t, more people will flock to you.
Reason #2 – it’s better for SEO. Studies show that accessible website have lower bounce rates and longer sessions conducted by people with disabilities.
Reason #3 – you don’t want to get sued. Certain laws in the US and other geos deem website to be a public place and as such, most be accessible by law. This means if a website owner decides not to take action and make his website accessible he or she might be at risk of facing a lawsuit.
Lastly, to put things in perspective, according to the CDC, there are more than 60 million people that live with disabilities.
Let’s start with the good features of Userway:
- you can use it to conduct an accessibility audit to identify barriers towards compliance. While this is a good free resource, it’s also recommended to use other web accessibility testers to get the full spectrum audit from multiple sources.
- the plugin includes a free basic automated accessibility adjustments and customizable widget (e.g. font size, color contrast, etc.) This means people with mild disabilities will be able to use the widget and interact with your website quite quickly after you’ve installed Userway.
- It does not cause much delay in performance or loading speed of the site.
- Lastly, it’s pretty easy to set up and configure.
The good news is that Userway is indeed “free” and that it’s one step closer to having an accessible website. With that being said, what are the unknown shortcomings that would have made this accessibility plugins not worth using?
That’s where we have to dig deeper and understand how web accessibility works and what kind of adjustments a website needs to make in order to comply with the regulations:
- Userway only targets the front end by making cosmetic changes to the website appearance it is implemented on. While this is a good thing and definitely better than nothing, it is not enough to be ADA compliant or accessible by law, let alone actually work for people with disabilities. More on this later on in this review.
- UserWay does not providing ongoing monitoring service and remediation. For a website to be ADA compliant and accessible one-time audit implementation or cosmetic changes aren’t enough. Most people are not aware of the fact that web accessibility in an on-going thing. When you add new pages, pop-ups, images and other elements the site becomes inaccessible if it’s not powered by a backend solution that can interact with its code.
- Userway is not compatible with screen readers. For a web accessibility tool to be adequate and able to comply with regulations it must work with all screen readers and all devices. For example, blind people commonly use their own screen reader, Jaws. Userway overlay is not compatible with Jaws, and actually doesn’t help blind people navigate websites powered by Userway because they can’t even activate the widget in most cases.
- The accessibility statement Userway provides does not protect from legal exposure and does not hold up in any litigation process. It is not as strong of a “mission statement” for web accessibility or as an on-going efforts for websites and organization that truly try to make their website ADA compliant or accessible.
The problems with using their own screen reader and not working at the backend is limiting to people with disabilities and thus, not solving the problem. Userway will not provide alt text generation for images or fix broken hyperlinks links nor will it fix pagination and navigation menus. Another important aspect a web accessibility tool needs to remediate it constructing a logical heading hierarchy so that it’ll be possible to interact with ease and effectiveness on the website.
Because UserWay focuses on the cosmetic aspects of your website and only introduces a client side overlay it won’t provide full accessibility and the fact that it is free makes it questionable.
The Bottom Line:
In summary, the Userway accessibility plugin is a quick accessibility fix that will probably be not enough to make your website truly accessible. Websites looking for full ADA compliance, you need to opt for robust web accessibility platforms that get the job down at the backend, and not just cosmetically on the front end or client side.
For a website to be fully ADA compliant, the images, navigation, pop-ups, buttons and animation all have to be accessible and they have to be accessible across the board in every web page.
The fact of the matter is that your website is as likely to be sued whether you’ve implemented Userway or not, because web accessibility is a very binary thing. Either your website is accessible or it simply isn’t.
It’s advisable to not use a free plugin if you truly want your website to be fully compliant and avoid lawsuits.