An apology from AccessiBe

Published on May 12, 2023


AccessiBe, an overlay company, issued an apology for the way they have been communicating with the disability community. This apology feels empty to me.

Is it actually an apology, or more of the spin we’ve become accustomed to from them?

Today, the Founder and CEO of AccessiBe, Shir Ekerling, wrote a long letter of apology to the disability community for “the way we previously communicated and reacted”. For me and many others in the disability community, this apology appears to be too little, too late.

Three fake traffic sign with orange background and black lettering stating I am sorry, Please forgive me, and Thank you.
Photo by mark tulin on Unsplash

A history of AccessiBe bad behavior

There is a long history of overlay vendors in general, and AccessiBe in particular, harassing disabled individual voicing concerns and valid criticism about their product. I am reminded of one particular incident, related on Twitter, where Chancey Fleet was bullied, insulted and yelled at by Mr. Ekerling. I won’t get into details of every incident I’ve heard about where AccessiBe and their representatives behaved abominably towards their critiques, including disabled folks. There are a lot of these stories hanging around. If you haven’t heard about these stories, I’ll ask you to take my word for it, or read the Overlay Fact Sheet, or do your own research.

Check out the Overlay Fact Sheet for information about overlays

To me, this so-called apology is a lot of empty words. It is pure spin. And AccessiBe have long been known to really good at marketing spin.

Other advocates’ perspectives

But it’s not only me. Sheri Byrne Haber points out on LinkedIn that the experience of having T1D diabetes doesn’t give someone, ipso facto, the understanding of assistive technology users. Whether or not Mr Ekerling believes himself, I can’t tell. But Mrs Byrne Haber’s personal experience of T1D and debunking of Mr. Ekerling’s statement indicate spin on his part to me.

Blaire Knight-Graves, also on LinkedIn, was more optimistic and hopes it’s not just an apology, but the beginning of accountability for the overlay industry.

I’ve even seen someone suggest that the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is after some of the AccessiBe Venture Capital funds. I find the comment interesting, but I’ll steer clear of NFB politics because I am neither blind nor a member of NFB.

My take

Yet, I can’t help questioning why they’d publish that apology in the Braille Monitor, an NFB publication. Considering that not that long ago NFB banned AccessiBe from their convention. Have they such a short memory? Or are they believing the so-called apology?

The fact the so-called apology is published only on the NFB website is telling to me. There is nothing on AccessiBe’s corporate website. There’s nothing addressing the accessibility community. If the apology is genuine and a sign of true change, it needs to be plastered all over the place.

Mr. Ekerling states in his letter that over the past two years they focused on seeking guidance and training from disabled leaders, activists, individuals, and disability-led organizations. It’s interesting that I haven’t heard about a single known and respected individual or organization in the field working with AccessiBe. I’ll admit, I don’t know everyone. But I have been around the block in disability rights advocacy from my early days leading Centers for Independent Living in the US. I’ve also been involved for decades in the digital accessibility community. I know enough people and organizations in this field to think I’d have heard from people working with AccessiBe. If you are an individual or part of an organization that has done positive work and have seen AccessiBe change, I’d love to hear from you.

Words are cheap

Bottom line: Words are cheap.

Actions speak louder than words. At this point, before I gullibly believe the drivel in that so-called apology, I’ll wait to see actions. And it’ll take a lot of the right moves to overcome all the negative impacts they’ve done in the past.

The so-called apology

I’ve retrieved a screenshot and the text of the apology from the NFB Braille Monitor site for archival purposes.


Text of the apology with a photo of Mr. Ekerling. Actual text follows this image of text.

Text of the letter

Retrieved May 11, 2023

A Heart-felt Apology and a Chance to Start Again by Shir Ekerling From the Editor: There isn't much I need to say because this letter says it all. I admire people who can say they are sorry and want to start again. I hope and believe this is a real step forward. Dear Members of the Federation, My name is Shir, and I am the founder of accessiBe. I am writing to address our past actions and to offer our deepest apologies for the way we previously communicated and reacted. I also want to outline what we are doing and have done to change and improve in response to feedback from Federation members and individuals in the broader disability space. Before I go further, I want to share with you that I have a deep personal understanding of what it feels like to be dependent on assistive technology. I am a person who relies daily on multiple assistive medical technologies due to my Type 1/juvenile diabetes. My medical journey has been challenging at times, and thus I am driven by a singular conviction when it comes to my work and accessiBe. I can personally relate to struggling with assistive technology, and this is one of the reasons it is essential for me to be the best ally that I can be to you. When I founded accessiBe, other than in the very technical aspects, I was a newcomer to the accessibility and disability communities. As software engineers, we incorrectly believed that the technicalities were all that we needed to know. When some community members voiced their concerns, my colleagues and I became defensive and resistant, and we mistakenly treated it with dismissal or, at times, even anger. As the founder of accessiBe, I want to take full responsibility for these reactions, and I wish to outline how, in the past two years, feedback from Federation members and many individuals and disability rights activists has guided me and accessiBe through a meaningful transformative process. After several years of learning, and as I reflect on our choices during that time, I recognize that the way we reacted to concerns did not demonstrate my commitment to my conviction. Even though we failed to respond appropriately, we did hear you. We have been learning a lot from your feedback and have been changing our approach and how we do things because of it. For our improper reactions and responses, we want to express our deepest apologies to everyone who has been affected, and we are committed to responding with openness, gratitude, and accountability going forward. I also want to apologize for emphasizing our marketing on avoiding legal action, when it should have been on making one's website usable to users who would otherwise be left out. We have many things to do until we get there, but I hope that soon, you will trust us enough to call us your ally and bestow that honor and responsibility on us. I am committed to that goal and to receiving all available guidance and learning to support that work. At the core of what we do is our belief that creating an inclusive environment for all individuals requires work from each of us individually and from us as a collective. As a company handling digital accessibility, it is our responsibility to work alongside you, to demonstrate why it is so crucial for businesses to provide online access at all times, especially in a rapidly changing digital space. This is why we strive to provide solutions that make it easier for businesses, from the smallest family business to the biggest enterprise, to provide equal access and opportunities to all their users and customers, with or without a disability. We want to provide businesses with tools that help them recognize that accessibility and usability are possible for them, and that even if they lack resources, providing accessibility will be a positive decision that drives their business forward. I'm not writing this to advertise accessiBe, but to provide background on what we are trying to do. I'm writing this letter to ask you, Federation members, for a second chance to build a relationship with you. I am aware of your concerns about overlays, privacy and security, advertising, and more. Some of these concerns are addressed here; others are too complex for a short letter, and I wish to remain focused on the communication and people aspect, and on our commitment. I am, however, going to address these and any other concerns you bring to my attention as we move forward in our communication, conversation, and the work we put out to the world. Over the past two years, we focused on seeking guidance and training from disabled leaders, activists, individuals, and disability-led organizations willing to teach us where we fell short and what we needed to do to revise our approach. This work is ongoing. We took the time for a deep review and are making significant changes that include complete employee training, disability history, civil rights activism, disability justice workshops, and guidance on accessibility and disability communication. We are committed to building an inclusive culture from the core and to being directed by the disability community in the work that we do. We want disability to be present in all aspects of accessiBe. Making significant changes takes time, and we understand that building trust is a lengthy process. We strive to continue learning and making further improvements that demonstrate our commitment as we move forward. The experience of every individual is unique. We cannot capture every perspective or understand every situation. Therefore, we will continue to learn and improve. Accessibility is not only about technology but mostly about people, culture, and education. We are committed to inclusion both internally and externally. We are also committed to being transparent about our journey, and I want to begin by sharing our "Purpose statement" ( This twenty-page document details the journey we have been on, delving deep into the changes we have made, and our focus for the future. We encourage you to read it to learn more about our efforts. Here are some highlights: Our marketing department has undergone a significant overhaul that encompasses communication, activities, and team structure. We have replaced our chief marketing officer and discarded previous campaigns. We have shifted our focus toward education, and our goal is to provide a platform for the disability community to reach our customer network and directly educate the business community without us speaking for or representing the community in any way, yet providing it an opportunity to educate millions of people and businesses directly. We are committed to supporting, elevating, and amplifying your voice and advocacy efforts. We strongly believe that educating people and businesses about disabilities, accessibility, and inclusion is crucial to creating an inclusive society. By offering individuals and businesses education, in cooperation with the disability community, we can collectively take steps toward bringing the digital world closer to where we all want it to be. We recognize that web accessibility is not a one-size-fits-all process. Therefore, today, our approach is to provide a variety of accessibility tools and solutions to help businesses address accessibility comprehensively. We are creating an ecosystem of tools, services, products, and educational platforms for businesses of all sizes to develop and implement inclusive business practices and successfully incorporate web accessibility in their projects. We also provide comprehensive accessibility services, including human audits, accessibility consulting, technical accessibility training, user testing, and ongoing support to ensure that accessibility is maintained over time. We are incorporating talented professionals from the disability community and their expertise into every aspect of our company. Everything we do is made with, and often by, a person with a disability in the process. This is true from research and development to the way we deliver services, build products and solutions, and come up with campaigns and communications for businesses and customers. Every layer of accessiBe relies on leadership and talent from people with disabilities, including input, education, guidance, and review. As the founder of accessiBe, I have a responsibility to lead by example. I am committed to listening to your feedback and concerns and to taking actions that reflect that. I am also committed to being accountable for our reactions and to being a part of the solution. For that reason, I want to offer a direct line of communication with me for your concerns or questions. Please do not hesitate to email me directly at We have a long way to go, but we are committed to making the necessary changes and doing better. We believe that accessibility and inclusion are critical foundational components of society and should therefore be essential and achievable for businesses of any size. We must create resources, solutions, and services that support this goal while providing the best user experience to each person. We look forward to working with you on creating a more accessible and inclusive future for everyone. Sincerely, Shir