Sub-$1,000 Web Accessibility Solution

If someone approaches you claiming they can make your web site WCAG compliant for just $1,000, they are lying to you. Granted, you may have a one-page site where the only problem is some contrast, in which case sure, $1,000 might be more than enough.

But for any web site bigger than that you need more. The problem is that some well-funded start-ups will try to sell you the no-effort quick fix.

But their own terms don’t guarantee it, it won’t protect you from a complaint, it requires code quality that gets you 99% of the way there already, and it won’t cover richer media (animations, documents, audio, or video).

The current pandemic is no protection either. In fact, your risk increases as more people move to your online presence.

The $1,000 price point is a fabrication by these overlay vendors. Their marketers are happy to create artificial comparisons against sustainable and proven approaches which may be at a scale far greater than you need.

Here are your two viable approaches as a small business:

Plan Ahead

Hire a consultant who has some experience in this space. They can help you choose a vendor who prioritizes accessibility and write this into your contracts. They can also direct you to technologies that have been vetted.

Some platforms have accessible features already. For example, WordPress offers 114 free accessibility-ready themes, built with a baseline of compliance already in place.

Add some free online resources when you create your content, and you may have all you need to get going.

There is even a free tool to generate an accessibility statement for your site, provided by the very organization that sets accessibility standards.

Too Late, You Already Have a Site

You can use one of the many free automated accessibility checkers on the market, assuming you aren’t interested in getting into the browser’s own tools. There is ARC, Axe, Lighthouse, WAVE, and Webhint, among others. While they will not catch all the issues (only about 30%), they will at least give you a sense where you stand.

Where you have gaps, document them. Identify what is wrong and put together a plan and timeline to address them. Publish it on your site when you generate an accessibility statement. As long as you honor the timelines you provide, you can choose what your ongoing budget will be to address them.

Even if it is only $1,000 per year.

Update: 16 February 2021

I completely failed to note that W3C provides a guide as well at Web Accessibility First Aid: Approaches for Interim Repairs:

Do you need to urgently address accessibility in an on-going web project? This page provides a concise overview with pointers to help address the most critical issues. Find a more comprehensive accessibility approach for the entire design and development process in Planning and Managing Web Accessibility.

There are lots of free resources, and it can be hard to determine quality when this is all new to you. Since W3C is the standards body behind the specifications and is not asking for your money, it is a reasonable place to start.

8 Comments

Reply

adding https://accessibilityinsights.io/en/

MIT OSS by msft.
Have been using it for a few months now, built on top of aXe, surprisingly good.

Amit; . Permalink
In response to Amit. Reply

WebHint also uses Axe and is also from Microsoft. It pre-dates Accessibility Insights, but each offers slightly different features. Thanks for adding the link.

Reply

Don’t you feel embarrassed with writing this?!
“Too Late, You Already Have a Site”
Are you kidding?
What kind of an affordable solution you give to hundreds of millions of an existing small-medium businesses’ website?

You’ve just made me feel more confidence in choosing the UserWay’s automated solution.

James D.; . Permalink
In response to James D.. Reply

Hi, James! I removed the link on your name because it felt a bit spammy. And your email (it@…) leads me to believe you are not really interested in receiving a response.

That heading you reference describes one of two possible situations: 1. you do not yet have a site, or 2. you already have a site. That’s it.

And then I outline the affordable solution for each of those two scenarios. Therefore I can only assume your question is rhetorical.

But since you settled on UserWay, you should read Be Wary of Add-on Accessibility. If you are uninterested in reading more of my stuff, then follow some of the links in that post. They demonstrate that UserWay is also inaccessible, does not help users, misrepresents its abilities in its marketing, and is not immune from lawsuits.

I continue to update it as new stuff pops up.

Anyway, good luck and I hope you aren’t left holding the bag!

Reply

Hi Adrian,

Thanks for your reply.

With your permission I will disregard your “personal assumptions” and will repeat the one and only question I’ve asked as a result of your feedback (““Too Late, You Already Have a Site”). So here it is again:

“What kind of an affordable solution you give to hundreds of millions of an existing small-medium businesses’ website?”

It’s absolutely fine answering that there is no such an affordable solution. That’s also an answer. If that’s not – will be super happy to hear it this time.

TIA,

James

James; . Permalink
In response to James. Reply

To restate the two paragraphs above and add a little more:

  • Document failures as reported from the listed automated checkers;
  • Publish those with an accessibility statement on your site and a timeline to fix them;
  • Contact the vendor ask for accessibility guarantees in all new work;
  • If the vendor cannot do it, find a new vendor.

That is the blanket approach for millions of sites. A couple hours with a competent accessibility consultant can get each of them more tailored feedback.

Now, if those millions of sites look at accessibility as a business opportunity as opposed to a thing to fear, then they can exert pressure on vendors and platforms to provide accessible sites as the default. The last two bullets speak to that.

Even if a vendor is incompetent and uses an overlay to claim their work satisfies WCAG, the vendor will be the one on the hook to fix your site since overlays explicitly do not satisfy WCAG and say so in their Terms.

Reply

Thank you Adrian.

Really appreciate your approach and detailed answer – yet I don’t find it by any form a real AFFORDABLE SOLUTION for existing websites just like ours.
That in a way keeps me pretty frustrated. It could be that there’s just no such.
For now I guess I’ll stay with UserWay’s solution hoping that indeed serves some/most of people with disabilities coming across our website.

Best,

James

Reply

First, I want to thank you for great indepth reading which has (over the last few weeks) really educated me and given me pause to consider where I go next. I work for a large multi national organization but I am only responsible for a pixel of our web properties in our domestic market.

As a 50+ year old company that has acquired, given birth to new companies, they have fallen victim to a “build it and forget it” culture. Whilst we have webguidelines, best practice and light accessibility statements. We have not governed ourselves accordingly

Now I’ve convinced several web owners that overlays are not the direction. But this is something that can only be resolved thoughtfully through good web design standards, fixing immediate issues on high traffic sites, followed by determining a roadmap for common code design UI (future)

I guess my question from reviewing the ‘usual suspects’ of vendors out there (i) promising the world with overlays (ii) pitching why their audit tools are best-in-class to (iii) ala cart services that can include ‘human-testers’; Where do you really start. Especially when budget for all of this is a challenge.
We’re willing to do the work (so need better auditing/prioritization tools), we don’t need someone giving us a lengthy report at $$$$, only for us to see the investment spent, and still huddled around a ‘TEAMS’ call planning next steps.

So if you have practical advice (to build a governance model), where would you say we start

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