What Is An Accessibility Overlay?

You may have heard of using an accessibility overlay to help people with disabilities better access your website, but what exactly is an overlay? Can it benefit everyone? In this article, This article will answer those questions and more.

An accessibility overlay, or a WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) overlay, is a set of instructions that tell a screen reader how to treat elements on a webpage properly. Most modern screen readers can utilize these overlays to make it easier for people with disabilities to use and access your website properly.

What Do They Do?

These overlays benefit everyone, including users who don’t have a disability. For example, a screen reader can often misinterpret the code on a web page, making reading confusing or even impossible. Using an overlay is one of many techniques to help visually impaired people use your website.

How Do They Work?

Most overlays work on the principle of telling the screen reader what an image is, what a heading is, or any other specific elements that may be available on your page. You can decide which elements you want to include in your overlay and then simply copy and paste the code to your webpage.

Do They Help People With Disabilities?

Of course, these overlays are especially helpful to those who suffer from disabilities. If you’ve ever had someone ask you to describe something that isn’t accessible to them, then you know how frustrating it can be.

By utilizing an overlay, screen readers can better define what they’re reading aloud. Not only does this make it easier to read, but it also makes the whole process a lot smoother.

What Are Some Options?

The most common type of overlay is a WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications) overlay. This uses HTML5 and can describe images, forms, navigational elements, and much more.

There are other types of overlays, such as WAI-ARIA 1.0, which is older but still used in some cases. However, this overlay does not work with screen readers utilizing the JAWS program or NVDA.

WAI-ARIA 2.0 is also available but is not used as often since the older version of WAI-ARIA is still compatible with most screen readers.


If you’re a web designer or developer, chances are you’ve run across this debate at some point. While they can both be helpful in different ways, it’s important to understand the difference between them.

What is WAI-ARIA?

WAI-ARIA is an HTML5 extension that adds semantics to elements on a webpage, while ARIA uses native HTML elements with roles and states added on top of that. That’s where the confusion starts for many people.

WAI-ARIA adds new elements to help accessibility, while ARIA adds a role and state to an existing HTML element.

What is HTML5?

HTML5 is the fifth major revision of the HTML standard. It was published in 2014, and it introduced several changes to how web pages are designed. While not all browsers support HTML5, most modern browsers do.

Final Thoughts

Using an overlay can help improve the overall accessibility of your website. If you want to ensure that as many people as possible can access and use your site, then it should be a major concern for you and your business. Using an overlay is one solution for this problem, but there are other ways to make your site more accessible such as proper coding, creating documents with proper heading tags, and more.