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Include Website Accessibility in Your Budget Planning

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Diverse group of people, including those with disabilities, walking around
Oct 05, 2020 | Reynee Tung

Accessibility is expensive, but it’s good for business. It reduces legal risks, strengthens brand presence, enhances the organization’s reputation and improves customer experience. 

It’s also mandatory. In the US, under Title 1 of the ADA, any business with at least 15 full-time employees that operates for 20 or more weeks every year is covered by the law. Under Title III, businesses that fall into the category of “public accommodation” are required to comply. This includes hotels, banks, public transportation and the entirety of the law applies, from physical to digital accommodations. Federal websites must adhere to Section 508 by law. State and local websites are required to check with their own state to see what standards are required.*

If you have customers around the world, you may need to know the accessibility laws in those other countries — the UK and Canada are starting to enforce accessibility.

The number of lawsuits is increasing and the right to accessibility makes these lawsuits anything but “frivolous”. Without web accessibility millions of people with disabilities, both permanent and temporary, miss out on simple conveniences many of us take for granted today. It’s important to know that when plaintiffs file a lawsuit under the ADA, they cannot sue for monetary damages — they can only seek reimbursement of their legal fees and remediation of what was inaccessible. What IS costly is the organization’s cost of being forced to comply, plus paying attorneys’ fees and applying required remediation, which can run to tens of thousands of dollars. Unbudgeted dollars. And, the penalty isn’t just the monetary financial setback. The disruption of a lawsuit can destroy web traffic and brand loyalty.

The question isn’t whether you should choose accessibility over the risk of inaction and a legal penalty. The question is why wouldn’t you invest in accessibility? The benefits are numerous.

A Growing Customer Population with Purchasing Clout

Web content should be accessible to blind users, deaf users and those who must navigate through voice, screen readers or other assistive technologies.

The global population is aging and with aging comes the potential acquisition of a disability. Today, at least one billion people — 15% of the world’s population — have a recognized disability. The global estimate of discretionary spending for this group is $7 trillion. In 2018, the CDC estimated that 1 in 4 US adults live with a disability that impacts major life activities. That’s 61 million Americans, with an estimated annual disposable income of $645 billion. This is a very large market segment to ignore, especially as the aging baby boomer population grows, along with disabled consumers who want the same web accessibility they had before they became disabled.

And these numbers don’t include anyone with temporary disabilities! 

What is Website Accessibility?

Web accessibility means that websites, tools and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them, i.e., they can contribute to the Web, and perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the Web. 

A Commitment to Accessible Web Design is Smart

When it comes to designing with accessibility in mind, what’s good for one can be good for all. Applying accessible web design is great for people with and without disabilities. Think about it this way — in a physical environment, everyone enjoys the benefits of ramps, automatic door openers, low or no curbs, etc. that are provided for disability access. In the digital environment, accessible web design follows the same principle — everyone benefits. 

  • Accessible design improves functionality. Content will render faithfully across devices, platforms, operating systems and assistive technologies. 
  • Investing in basic accessibility practices that’s implemented directly into content is great for improving organic SEO. If your competitor has an accessible site and you do not, potential customers are more likely to see your competition ranked higher in search results.
  • Accessibility features improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. When web design is thought through and provides different ways to interact, user experience is intuitive, natural and human-centered.  

It’s always a good practice to be forward-thinking. Web use is part of our lives around the world, and more and more governments are mandating laws that provide rights to people with disabilities to provide them with access to information and services. Smart businesses, especially those with global activities, are creating accessibility programs and policies to mitigate their risk and protect their assets and reputations.

What is an Accessibility Audit?

The audit tests against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1, A, AA). created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). These guidelines have been around for almost two decades due to the W3C Accessibility Initiative. Many organizations use WCAG to ensure their websites are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. 

It’s important to select an approach that is purpose-built for accessibility auditing. What you want in a WCAG-compliant audit tool and service is one that indexes the entire site and provides a single report that catalogs all issues. For each issue, the report should indicate where it is, rate its severity and provide remediation guidance.

Let’s Talk Numbers

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) site is an excellent resource for building your business case and securing a budget to invest in your business.

The first step is to take a look at your website and where it is in its lifecycle. If it’s more than four years old, it’s probably a good candidate for a redesign. A website redesign will refresh the overall design, enhance mobile performance and improve SEO through the use of current techniques. An accessible site should include testing and remediation time, which can add 10% – 20% to your time and budget.

Manual auditing/remediating an existing site can range quite a bit depending on the size and complexity of your site. Each unique page/template can range between 4 – 7 hours to test. For example, WebAIM evaluations average $2,000 – $8,000, with additional follow-up consultation at $215/hour. 

Keep in mind, many pages share the same page functions, elements and/or widgets. You may be able to reduce your costs by creating your initial list of unique pages and templates, then note the elements that are shared. Websites are usually built with templates, so many remediation fixes, such as font size, contrasts and colors, can be made globally.

If you don’t have internal resources who are up-to-date on accessibility practices, consider outsourcing the work to an accessibility consultant while you offer education, training and development to your internal staff. Your accessibility partner should have a strong understanding of the front-side code of your website — the html, css and javascript. Demonstrating a strong understanding of this code means your partner is qualified to show where and what the issue is, and can fix it.

A Phased Approach

Even with the proven reasons why accessibility is a must and a good investment for your business, budget is always a factor. If you are not able to fully fund an accessible website project in the coming budget year, you may want to consider a phased approach. This means using an automated website audit, performing the remediations based on that report, and performing the manual testing and remediation later. 

The other budget consideration is that your plan should include maintenance. The frequency of ensuring new content is accessible depends on how often your site changes. Be sure to build in regular audits and remediation in your plan.

Automated Website Audit

This method only detects ~25-30% of violations, but is a great first step to get a complete view of your site’s accessibility and identify the low-hanging fruit. 

Manual Testing

A proper manual WCAG audit is time-consuming and expensive. A full audit includes automated and manual testing that includes assistive technology testing. The pricing for this type of audit is calculated by the number of unique pages that need manual testing. The average range is $10k – $30k for a typical site. 

Remediation

The type of report that you receive is important and you also need to be sure that you have an expert on the current WCAG standards and front-side code. 

Together, this plan will help protect you from legal actions and ensure everyone is able to use your site.

Ongoing Assistance

The standards in the US and around the world change frequently. If you need a knowledgeable partner to assist with building or remediating your site, let’s connect!

*The information provided here should not be inferred to be legal advice. Anyone questioning legal obligations for their web site should consult with an attorney.