Affordable Website Accessibility: Cheapest Options for ADA Compliance (Small Businesses)

As of March 2021, if you get price quotes from the top website accessibility companies, you’re staring at a minimum $10,000 starting price tag for accessibility services.

For sole proprietors and small businesses, you may as well tell them to gather 2,724 bananas from 48 different grocery stores because neither option makes any sense.

If that ends your accessibility conversation, this article is where it picks up again.

Here’s what I would do with a smaller budget:

Don’t Buy Worthless Products

First, don’t waste any money on instant fix or automated “solutions”.

You’ll typically see these referred to as overlays, widgets, toolbars and/or plugins.

The basic story is you’ll insert a piece JavaScript of code and an icon will show on your website. When someone clicks on the icon, a menu of supposed “accessibility” options pop up.

These are cheap parlor tricks — by no stretch of the imagination does this make your website accessible and you are still 100% ripe for a demand letter or lawsuit.

You’re completely wasting your money if you fall for the quick pitch vendors.

There are several reasons why overlays don’t work for website accessibility.

Be Careful with Services

As a price conscious consumer, it’s tempting to veer towards cheaper prices but you might end up paying dearly for saving money up front.

Whenever you buy an accessibility product or service, make sure you research the provider and know exactly who you’re dealing with and what you’re getting.

For example, PDF accessibility remediation services may not make your PDFs completely accessible. They may take your PDF from a 0 to a 5 on the accessibility scale but not do the time-consuming tasks that take your PDF to a 9 to 10.

With that backdrop, let’s take a look at some options for entrepreneurs and small businesses with smaller budgets.

Affordable Accessibility Options

Forward your domain over to a Facebook page

Facebook business pages are built with the idea of trying to supplant websites. Facebook also provides tremendous insulation against demand letters.

If your website doesn’t fare well in Google rankings, why not lean on Facebook for the time being?

Or you could delete your website altogether but forwarding it to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. seems like a better alternative.

DIY audit

To make your website accessible, you basically (not exactly but basically) need to follow the standards set in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA.

Study WCAG for a weekend and you’ll have a much better feel for what you need to do and you can take your best shot at auditing your own website.

You can hack my manual website accessibility audit article to create your own audit framework to work from.

Subscribe to Accessible.org to get my free WCAG 2.1 AA checklist.

Audit Services

There are also smaller accessibility agencies that offer a single WCAG 2.1 AA manual audit ala carte.

The price for a website accessibility audit will be lower but nothing extra will be included (e.g., tech support, legal support, user testing, etc.).

Before you hire an agency, research the service.

Two helpful tips are

1) Don’t hire a digital marketing agency that isn’t focused on accessibility (e.g., they’re also trying to sell you SEO and social media services)

2) Don’t hire overlay vendors even if they claim they’ll manually audit / fix your website. Overlay vendors are not trustworthy.

DIY remediation

Remediation in this context means fixing your website so that it’s accessible.

Depending on your skill level and the complexity of your website, you may or may not want to take this on.

But, even non-tech savvy can usually watch a few minutes of YouTube videos and figure out how to add alt text to images (this alone can potentially be a demand letter stopper).

You can also simplify your website by removing inaccessible media (images, video, audio) and instantly reduce your chances of receiving a demand letter.

Hire a developer

You can get a quality developer to work on your website for $25-$45/hr.

Freelancer and UpWork are popular places to source developers from and you can sort by reviews.

If you search by accessibility, you may or may not get lucky with someone who has experience in making websites accessible.

The inevitable problem is many freelancers will say they have expertise and experience when they do not.

And, following from that, you may hire someone who doesn’t actually get the job done — and you, as someone who is new to accessibility, may not realize it.

These obstacles come with the territory of sourcing development but, if you’re diligent and somewhat lucky, you’ll get someone who does a decent job on the first try.

Just be hyper aware that merely hiring a developer for remediation isn’t a “lock-of-the-week” answer; a lot can go wrong.

And I really mean that. I’ve dealt with numerous developers who return websites fraught with accessibility issues; they’ll address what I’m asking for but not in an accessible manner.

But you’re here to save money and directly hiring a developer is significantly cheaper than going through a specialty agency.

Clearly, there’s a trade off in reduced cost vs. confidence.

Use a Wordpress “Accessibility Ready” theme

If your website isn’t tethered to custom design and dynamic functions, an accessible WP theme is a quick and affordable option although you will have to account for all content that you upload (text, images, audio, video, etc.).

I created Accessible Theme specifically for people looking for real, affordable options. If nothing else, Accessible Theme can act as the perfect placeholder while you figure out how to best remediate your website in 2021.

There are also other accessible themes on the market. Just make sure they’re actually WCAG conformant out of the box and not lazily throwing the accessibility card as a sales booster.

Doing nothing leaves you as the current sitting duck you are.

If you take genuine, proactive steps, maybe you’ll at least move into moving duck status.

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Kris Rivenburgh

Kris Rivenburgh

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