Cost of Making Your Website Accessible, ADA Compliant Is Workable
This article primarily discusses web accessibility from a small business prospective. Towards the end, I talk about undertaking accessibility from a larger organization and enterprise point of view.
Making a website accessible comes down to two key things: 1) an audit and 2) remediation.
An accessibility audit is where someone manually goes through your website and looks for accessibility issues under WCAG 2.0 AA or 2.1.
Remediation is where someone implements the changes necessary so that your website is in conformance with WCAG 2.0 AA or 2.1.
The cost of an audit typically starts at $3,500.
The cost of remediation typically starts at $4,500.
If you have a smaller website, it may be cheaper to try my manual remediation service.
Depending on what agency you hire and the workload necessary, you may pay slightly less or you pay a lot more.
Below are the factors that determine your price.
1) The current state of the website
- Number of unique pages/layouts
- Is this a complete makeover situation or just a few fixes here and there?
- Do third party integrations need to be replaced?
2) How interactive, dynamic a website is
- Does it have forms?
- Is registration required?
- Is there a checkout?
- Are live, real-time elements in play?
3) How much manual work is involved
- How many images need alt text added?
- How much media needs text transcripts and/or closed captioning?
- Do PDFs need to be remediated or converted into web pages?
Let’s talk more about the cost.
The Manual Remediation Cost
If you have a media-intensive site, a big chunk of the cost of making your website accessible is the sheer amount of work necessary.
Alt tags, closed captioning, and text transcripts are simple to understand (no advanced developer knowledge needed) but can become extremely time consuming if you have vast amounts of images and multimedia (e.g. YouTube videos, podcasts) to account for.
Two other items on the accessibility to-do list that take time and a trained eye:
- writing descriptive headings and anchor text links
- breaking down images of text into actual text (e.g., infographics)
The Website Complexity Cost
Another significant price influencer is the complexity of the project.
The more dynamic your website is and the more intricate your design is, the more complex your accessibility update is going to be and the more you’re going to pay.
For example, ESPN and FoxSports are media rich websites with lots of videos, ads, auto-plays, and live updates going on. Meeting the most important accessibility bullet points while trying to maintain a similar level of product, engagement, and profitability requires serious customization and planning.
Generally, the more interaction your site requires and/or the more media rich your site is (images, video, audio), the more expensive your final bill will be.
Banks, hotels, universities, retailers, and news sites are good examples of niches that will pay more to become accessible.
The more information based your site is (think lawyers or blogs), the less expensive your web compliance costs will be.
The State of Accessibility Cost
If your website has less to fix, your quote will be a little lower. Conversely, if your website is a swamp of WCAG failures, the price is going to spike.
This applies to auditing and fixing a website. And it can apply to testing as well, depending on whether the testing is comprehensive (e.g., test all app screens) or limited (e.g., test my app for 2 hours).
How to Make ADA Website Compliance Affordable?
To lower your the cost of making your website accessible, here’s what you can do:
1. Do all of the manual stuff in-house.
Once you’ve got some of your staff trained (and I mean actually educated here) in web accessibility, they can handle smoothing out the closed captions and filling in the title tags, alt text, and headings.
This will save you a nice bundle of money vs. having a specialist do it for you.
2. Don’t just hand over an accessibility checklist to a web developer on freelance site and say, “I need this done.”
If you’re familiar with web accessibility elements beforehand, have had a thorough manual audit conducted ahead of time, and itemize exactly what needs to be done, you’re going to save yourself a nice chunk of money. You’ll also get a more thorough and complete upgrade to your website.
In essence, you or your agent becomes the web accessibility coordinator and takes the thinking out of website compliance for the developer.
3. Get it done right the first time.
Pay a fair amount to a qualified, competent agency or freelancer who is diligent and capable of updating the code and design of your website.
Before trying to go the cheapest route possible, consider these bullet points:
- Search engine optimization or SEO
- Responsiveness (mobile friendly)
- User experience or UX
- Conversion rate optimization or CRO
All of these elements need to be taken in consideration when updating your site as making your website accessible can affect directly them.
It’s absolutely worth it to hire a competent marketing and/or web development firm who is aware of all of the above elements in play and can help you with the accessibility integration process.
It’s much easier and cost effective to get everything done right in one fell swoop vs. having to re-hire for the same job multiple times.
4. For larger undertakings, hire an accessibility company or advisor.
For larger projects (such as compliance for corporate or government sites), it’s best to source to an accessibility company because a ton of resources will be involved and it’s inefficient for you, as a sizeable organization, to try and build an infrastructure from within from scratch.
You’ll need manual audits and user testing across digital properties (e.g., websites, apps, products, software, and documents), training, documentation (possibly a VPAT), consultation, and legal and technical support.
Moreover, you’ll want to update your digital properties in a strategic fashion that prioritizes significant barriers and high risk items.
And beyond that, you have to maintain and improve upon digital accessibility going forward.
That’s a lot to unpack.
Even if you have your own team, an independent agency’s experience and expertise can be of tremendous help in organization your endeavor and what needs to happen next.
The cost here typically starts in the low five-figures annually.
You’re going to have to shell out some time and money for this but it’s much better to approach than to open up that ugly, ugly envelope from a plaintiff’s law firm threatening legal action if you don’t settle (or, even worse, multiple letters).
Although you’re unfamiliar with accessibility and may view it as a new and unexpected cost, it can very well be a springboard for dramatic improvement for your organization.
There are numerous benefits to accessibility.
Important note: As of the date this article was published, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not expressly mandate digital accessibility, nor what constitutes accessibility. However, the ADA is currently being interpreted to require website accessibility by most courts. The standard commonly referenced for accessibility is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. WCAG 2.1 AA is increasingly being cited in complaints but most claims do not allege 2.1 AA failures.