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calculator and spreadsheet for estimating ADA compliance costs

How Much Does ADA Website Compliance Cost?

What does ADA/WCAG compliance cost?

As web-related ADA compliance lawsuits continue to impact website owners in every state, every sector, and every size, its wise to budget to make sure your website is ADA compliant.

As the recent Supreme Court denial of Domino's indicates, there is no repreve from trolling law firms looking for easy money on it's way. Quite the opposite with that ruling.

Legal risk aside, take this opportunity to open your website to people with disabilities, and an aging boomer generation facing reduced vision and fine motor skill challenges.


What does ignoring web accessibility cost?

That might be a more relevant question. If you haven't already been hit with a demand letter or lawsuit yet, consider yourself luckily. But how lucky do you really feel? When luck runs out, you'll be facing these same audit and remediation costs. Then add legal costs for both you and the plaintiff, inevitable settlement costs, lost productivity, and then the immeasurable hit to your brand's reputation when the news gets out. After that, the PR cost to clean it up. Should I go on? 


Step One: New Accessible Website or Audit & Remediate Existing Website for ADA Compliance?

First, I always ask where you are in the lifecycle of your current website. Is your website more than 4 years old? If so, its likely that its time for a redesign. Not only for accessibility, but also for design freshness, mobile performance, and SEO. After 4 years, your current site is likely showing age from a design standpoint. In the past few years, new techniques have also emerged for building responsive websites to increase mobile performance. Along with an accessible redesign, you then have a great opportunity to retune the site for maximum search engine performance as well. If that's your path, expect to pay more for an accessible website. The added testing and remediation ads significant time, which generally translates to an increase of 10%-20%.


What does it cost to audit and remediate an existing website?

If you're happy with your current website, then you need to assess the costs to audit and remediate. This can range dramatically based on the size and complexity of your website, and the depth of auditing you pursue.  The best practice for ADA compliance testing is a 3 step approach that tests against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1, A, AA). Since the WCAG is nuanced and interpretive, automated solutions cannot detect 70% of issues. So it’s important not to rely on automated testing alone.

Automated Website Audit scans the entire site for WCAG violations it can detect (limited). There are differnces between single page testers like WebAIM's WAVE tool, and full site audiing software that produce reporting that identifies every issue throughout the site. Unfortunately automated testing can only detect ~30% of violations.  

Manual Testing of templates and unique pages is reviewed for WCAG compliance. Important that auditor is both an expert in WCAG and digital accessibibility, but also web design and coding.

Assistive Technology Testing
 of templates and unique pages are tested using screen readers and tools that people with disabilities use to access websites and mobile apps. 

When gauging these services, it’s important to focus on the resulting reporting. You want full-site documentation of all violations showing you where they are, what they are, and most valuably- how to fix each (key value in what we offer). Ask for samples for a developer to review.

The cost for all three steps can easily go beyond $7K and large complex sites can run beyond even $20K, so some take a phased approach starting with automated testing. Just be sure not to feel overly secure until you’ve remediated against auditing by all three steps.


How to save on Manual WCAG Website Testing 

It takes 4-7 hours to test each unique page/template. Many of these pages share the same page elements/widgets/functions. They key to reducing cost is to be more selective about which pages to audit. So after you have your initial list of unique pages/templates, begin cutting away those that share the same elements, but aren't really otherwise different. I've been able to cut that list in half, and in doing so, cut the project cost in half.


ADA Compliance Website Remediation Costs

Once you have the results of the audit, your website partner can estimate the remediation costs. The remediation process will likely start with design adjustements to colors, font sizes, and contrasts. Websites are largely built on templates, which means that many fixes can easily be made globally. Tables, forms, and complex functions require deeper work. It can become significant, which is why I started by asking whether it might make more sense to scrap the current site and rebuild with a reputable and experienced web design firm that specializes in building accessible ADA compliant websites.


What to Avoid

If you're expecting a quick fix or a plug-in of some type, prepare to find many snake-oil salesman claiming they can easily make your website complaint. Buyer beware. If it sounds too good to be true...

Do Not Rely Only on Automated Audits

The WCAG is nuanced and interpretive. Automated tools, at best can only detect 30% of WCAG issues. Manual and assistive technology testing must be conducted to capture the remaining 70%.

Beware of Quick & Cheap Solutions
The demand is high for quick, easy and inexpensive WCAG compliance auditing and remediation solutions, and there are a growing number of short-cut solution providers trying to take advantage of that demand. While they sound good - especially those claiming AI, ultimately they fail to deliver true website accessibility for people with disabiltites. They also fail to deliver a high level of legal protection. These come under two general categories: 1. Layered "overlays" and toolbars, and 2. Alternate "accessibile" websites. While an overlay solution may make sense only as a short-term bandaid, the alternate website approach should not even be considered. Here is why.

Final Thoughts 

Whichever path sounds better, take it. Do not put this off another year. The recent Domino's Supreme Court decision not to hear their case, has further validated all the existing case law - and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal's decision in this Domino's which reaffirms:

  1. ADA Title iii covers websites with a nexus to a physical place of public accommodation.
  2. Even in the absence of website accessibility regulations, imposing liability on website owners does not violate due process.

In making your website accessible and ADA compliant by following the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG v2.1 A, AA) you will not only be avoiding on-going legal risk, but you'll be allowing people with disabilties - and a growing number of baby boomers with failing eyes and shaky hands, to use your website.