2022 Web Accessibility & ADA Compliance Cost Guide
The importance of ensuring websites and apps are inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities will be even more important in 2022. Aside from the legal exposure of not complying with the ADA or Sect 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, or growing state laws such as California's Unruh Act, brands must also be aware of how a lack of diligence with digital accessibility can potentially risk a brand's credibility by current and potential consumers and employees. In the US, over 25% (61M) have a disability. This is not a small market.
2022 US State and Federal Web Accessibility Standards
In the past year, nothing substantial has changed. For commercial website owners, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) plus various state laws apply. For public entities and those that take federal funding, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act applies. The common in-practice standard for each US law, and most internationally, is the Web Content Accessibility Guideline. The WCAG was created and is maintained by the independent international web standards organization, the W3C. More about current US web accessibility standards and requirements in 2022.
While these laws and standards do apply to native mobile apps, as well as web-based software and applications, for simplicity, this article will broadly speak to website accessibility. The same approaches apply to all.
Web Accessibility and ADA Compliance Options and Costs
The process begins with the audit, followed by remediation and then validation. We typically provide the audit and then collaborate with the existing web team to perform the remediation. If there isn't an existing web team then our Propeller Media Works web development team can typically provide the remediation. We then return and validate that all issues are addressed, and issue either a certificate or a VPAT if needed.
There are different paths and options. The path for you will be based on the level of legal risk you want to eliminate or the level of digital inclusion you want to reach, then balanced against what you can afford. This is not an insignificant cost for many companies, but there are pragmatic ways for those with modest budgets to make great progress toward digital inclusion without breaking the bank.
Best Practices for Web Accessibility and ADA Compliance in 2022
The best practice for auditing augments the limitations of automated testing with human testing of the unique pages of a site. Even the best automated tools can only detect 30% of WCAG accessibility issues, and this is why manual human WCAG testing is very important. That said, the process does begin with an automated WCAG website scan. This step is good for catching low-hanging fruit throughout the site. The next two steps both begin with identifying the "unique pages" of the site, which provide a representative sample of the entire site. For these pages we conduct human testing in two steps beginning with manual UX and code review that includes keyboard only testing. We then put ourselves into the shoes of multiple personas representing different disability scenarios and apply the appropriate assistive technologies to test these unique pages. Screen readers such as JAWS or NVDA which assist people with vision are good examples.
- Automated Testing : Indexes the entire site and is good for catching low-hanging fruit but is unable to detect ~30% of WCAG issues.
- Manual Review : Code review, keyboard only and user experience testing of unique pages.
- Assistive Technology : Testing of unique pages with the tools that people with various disabilities use.
The Cost Range for WCAG Auditing
The cost factor is based primarily on the scope of human testing. Following a 3 step best practice audit will cost on the low end around $10K for a basic information/marketing website. Many ecommerce sites will fall into the $25K-$35K. Large enterprise sites can easily rise into the six figures zone.
Pragmatic Approaches to Reducing WCAG Website Auditing Costs
Since most often website owners are reacting to a legal action, this is an unanticipated expense that is not budgeted for. And for many small to mid sized companies this cost is too high. So how can you reduce the cost of WCAG audits while still reaching an acceptable risk level and substantially improving the accessibility of the website... mobile app, or web app?
- Reduce the number of unique pages for human testing. This is the primary cost factor, so take that list of unique pages and carefully sift out any redundancies. Grab your Google Analytics and sift out any those with low traffic. Focus on the primary paths that typical users would take on your site and you should be able to cut that cost in half if not more.
- Take a phased approach and start with an automated-only audit. Yes, they are limited in their depth, but they are good at catching low hanging fruit. Also from a legal risk perspective, the legal trolls are only using automated tools themselves to test your site. Just be sure you're using better software. Then in the next budget cycle, come back and do the human audit and complete the process.
The more you invest upstream, the better the quality and thoroughness you will get back. The key is to get solid remediation guidance from the reporting that will save time and money downstream in remediation.
Warning: Avoid Overlay "Solutions"
Unfortunately there are a number of bad actors in the space peddling snake oil. Avoid "overlay" widgets, plugins, etc. Ignore their claims. They are profiteers cashing in on the demand for quick and cheap solutions. However they fail to provide the accessibility or legal protection they claim. Details here.
This is a new cost of doing business. Accept this earlier than later and avoid the additional cost and hassle of dealing with the inevitable lawsuit, and the stain of being discriminatory to people with disabilities. And yes, it is inevitable. It only takes a cut and paste of your url into a cheap automated tester to reveal the hundreds if not thousands of "ADA violations" that will be found on your website. I say this with confidence as an owner of a website development company for 25 years. Unless your website was specifically designed and built for web accessibility, it simply isn't. So do this now, and reap the benefits of improved usability for all people, improved SEO, and contributing something very valuable to our most vulnerable... which is also their fundamental civil right.
photo credit : TomFisk | Pexels