Accessibility Expert Adrian Roselli Sued for Wanting Accessibility to be…Accessible

If you’re part of the Accessibility Community, then the name Adrian Roselli should sound familiar. Adrian is a tireless champion of accessibility who speaks globally about the importance of why accessibility matters, how to be more accessible, and why overlays are not the accessibility solution that overlay companies would have you think they are.

A quick look at Adrian’s Twitter account will attest to his passion for a more accessible, and thus inclusive, internet.

Speaking out about what matters, though, doesn’t always make others (and corporations) your biggest fan.

Law Office of Lainey Feingold posted this week that Adrian Roselli is the target of a SLAPP lawsuit filed by Audio Eye, with the purpose to stop him from expressing his opinions about the Audio Eye overlay product.

Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP suit) refers to lawsuits brought by individuals and entities to dissuade their critics from continuing to produce negative publicity. By definition, SLAPP suits do not have any true legal claims against the critics.

Cornell Law School

Why Is Accessibility Important?

Simply put, accessibility is important because everyone should be able to use any site and any page on a website, regardless of their abilities.

While accessibility laws may differ in different countries or municipalities, the web remains a (mostly) globally-accessible entity. Because of that, those who create on the web have a responsibility to be accessible to all, regardless of how stringent or lax the laws in their area are.

When websites and web tools are properly designed and coded, people with disabilities can use them … Making the web accessible benefits individuals, businesses, and society. International web standards define what is needed for accessibility.

Web Accessibility Initiative

Why Overlays Don’t Work

According to GetFused, the four main reasons accessibility overlays don’t work are:

  • Accessibility overlays need to be found and activated
  • Accessibility overlays may not be compatible with the user’s preferred settings
  • Accessibility overlays are not universally consistent
  • Accessibility overlays can’t detect most accessibility issues

Read their article 4 Reasons Why Accessibility Overlays Don’t Work for a complete understanding of their key points above.

Adrian’s Account

In his blog post #AudioEye Is Suing Me, Roselli shares the account of how he was served with papers, as well as links to the legal documents. Notably, none of the legal documents served to him were immediately available in any way other than printed ink on paper.

Understandably, Roselli’s post is factual and removes emotion from the account of events.

He also shares links to other pertinent posts on his site.

Adrian Rosell’s Blog

Post Status Reactions

I posted Feingold’s article in the Post Status #club channel earlier this week, and was not at all surprised by the reactions and sentiments shared by our community members.

The sentiment about needing accessibility has not been challenged, but thoughts about publicly stating an opinion (however justified, however strongly held, and however prolifically shared), stirred most of the conversation.

Roselli always gets my brain going, and this article spun me into a morning of questions around efficacy/morality of litigious business practices, accessibility automation, and so much more! Curious what #club thinks about AudioEye action and Roselli’s crusade to make sites accessible at their source.

Blake Bertuccelli-Booth

Seems like a very extreme move by this company. I have no legal education, so all I can do is guess. But it seems like they’d have to prove that what he’s saying is false. As in, he’s completely wrong about AudioEye’s technology.

That is, if this ever goes to trial. Their real goal may be to scare him into silence.

Targeting accessibility advocates seems like a way to get some bad publicity. If there’s enough coverage of it, anyway.

Eric Karkovack

We haven’t seen a lot of this type of activity in the open source world, I think. It feels similar to lawsuits against goodwill security researchers who report security issues: attacking the person who exposes a weakness in your product. I’ve thought for a while that there would be a value to something similar to vulnerability databases for accessibility issues, as well as resources for private reporting and issue management. However, right now, I don’t think it’s feasible – it’s too large of a problem. Where an otherwise good plugin might have three or four security vulnerabilities found in a year, I would fully expect most of them to have dozens to hundreds of accessibility issues. Software needs to get better at accessibility before such a platform is practical.

And almost all of these antics are specifically in the overlay and automated remediation space, which is no surprise, since those markets are so heavily based on targeting site owners and developers who don’t have ready access to expert information within their organizations.

And yes; if others have been threatened with lawsuits, it’s likely some have just chosen to be quiet rather than deal with the legal consequences – since those are incredibly burdensome no matter what the eventual outcome is.

Joe Dolson

And Blake Bertuccelli-Booth asks the final question in the thread, “The question is, how can we target publicity in a way that causes AudioEye and others to stop predatory practices?”

How You Can Help

There are many ways you can help. The greatest of which is to make your sites more (if not fully) accessible without the use of overlays, and using best practices (most of which can be found at the WCAG site – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).

Additionally, you can boost Adrian’s voice in the web community. You can retweet him, share through Mastodon, and even post about why accessibility matters on your own sites. And follow Eric Karkovack’s example: “I’m putting links on social media. At least we can reach the web design community.”

In a world full of Audio Eyes, be a Roselli.

This article was published at Post Status — the community for WordPress professionals.

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