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CCATP #678 – Matt Campbell on Accessibility Overlays & Cloudflare Remote Browser Isolation

Matt Campbell is a blind software developer who has specialized in making computers more accessible to blind people for over 20 years. He was the lead developer for Serotek for 15 years, where he developed several affordable and easy-to-use products, including a Windows screen reader and an online community for blind people. More recently, he was a developer on the Windows accessibility team at Microsoft, where he contributed to Narrator, the screen reader built into Windows. Now he’s the co-founder and chief technology officer of Pneuma Solutions, which is working to make online meetings and documents fully accessible.

Matt wanted to be on the show to talk about two things: Accessibility Overlays and Cloudflare’s Remote Browser Isolation project. Accessibility Overlays are intended to help companies pass accessibility standard tests, but according to Matt, they often actually make websites less accessible. He’s written an open source browser extension for Chrome and Edge called Accessibyebye that will disable these overlays if they make your web browsing problematic. In the conversation he references a blog post about the problems at…

He’s also trying to raise awareness about a huge problem with a product from Cloudflare called Remote Browser Isolation. This technology is designed to help companies protect their employees from browser-based attacks, replacing VPNs. But the way it accomplishes this is problematic for accessibility. The idea is that your employees browse to a website but the URL request goes to Cloudflare instead, where it navigates to the site. Cloudflare renders the site, and then sends only JavaScript draw commands to your browser. This means the original elements are not sent to your web browser, which means screenreaders have nothing to read, and mobility tools have nothing to connect with. Matt participated in the beta and warned Cloudflare about the problems, but the service came out of beta without concern for accessibility in spite of his efforts.

You can find Matt on Twitter at @mw_campbell

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Below is an outline we followed for the conversation

Accessibility overlays

  • What are accessibility overlays?
  • Why don’t accessibility overlays actually make websites more accessible to blind people?
  • How do accessibility overlays make web accessibility worse?
  • Is it possible to automatically fix web accessibility like these companies claim?
  • What are you doing to fight back?
    • Pneuma Solutions free extension for Chrome & Edge, blocks accessibility overlays (plan for Firefox)
  • How can listeners help?
    • Install the Pneuma Solutions free extension for Chrome & Edge, blocks accessibility overlays (plan for Firefox). This will

Cloudflare Remote Browser Isolation

  • What is Cloudflare?
    • Content delivery network, and web security protection
  • What is Remote Browser Isolation?
    • Replaces VPNs for companies
    • Your request for a URL goes to Cloudflare instead, where it navigates to the site
    • Renders websites in the cloud and sends the graphics to your computer
    • Only sends HTML in order to call their JavaScript to render the page for you
    • Screenreaders have nothing to work with
  • Matt got private beta access and experienced it himself
  • How is this new product supposed to improve corporate security?
  • Why is this product bad for blind people in a work environment?
  • Can Cloudflare make this product accessible?
  • What have you been doing to raise awareness about this problem?
  • How can listeners help?
    • If your company is considering Cloudflare Remote Browser Isolation, make sure they know about this

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