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How to Calculate the Cost to Make Your Website ADA Compliant [9 Steps]

By UsableNet on Mar 31, 2020
Topics: Web Accessibility, ADA Website Compliance


Wondering how to calculate the cost to make your website ADA compliant? In 2020, the business case for web accessibility couldn’t be stronger, but determining a budget can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. In this post, we break down nine key steps to show you how to do it and provide a free tool to help you get started.

1. Decide whether you should outsource your web accessibility project or manage it in-house.

Any large project requires having the right team in place, and web accessibility is no exception. Before embarking on a website accessibility project, you need to decide whether you will manage it in-house or outsource it to a third party. We have a short survey that can help you answer this question. If you are not sure, no problem. Keep reading, and we’ll help you understand what is involved.

To decide which option is right for your company, you first need to ask yourself some basic questions:

    • Can your internal team or development/agency partner handle the work?
    • How complicated is your site? Transactional functionality and interactive content add complexity.
    • How big is your site, and how much content do you have?
    • Do you know how compliant your site is with ADA website accessibility standards?
    • Will you need to implement any sweeping operational and cultural changes across your organization to maintain ADA compliance?

UsableNet has created a free resource to help you sort through these considerations—a cost calculator.

→ Try UsableNet’s free ADA Accessibility Remediation Calculator to determine the cost of making your website ADA compliant.

2. Consider the complexity of your site.

The more complex your site is, the greater the cost will generally be to make your site compliant. Site complexity can be categorized into three distinct levels.

With a simple content website, your ADA compliance costs will likely be lower. This includes sites with few pages that are mostly informational, such as a local government or small company site without e-commerce, or sites with sporadic updates. Examples of these sites include the New York City Department of Education or a local restaurant site.

A basic e-commerce or transactional site has a larger footprint and more complexity than a simple content site: Perhaps you have an online store or transactional functionality without much customization. ADA compliance on a site like this will need a larger budget. 

Enterprise e-commerce or transactional sites are the most complex: These sites have many individual pages and templates, with customized functionality and personalized experiences for users. Examples of complex sites include Ticketmaster and JCPenney, and bringing such sites into compliance will require an even higher budget. 

3. Identify the types of content your site has.

When determining the cost of making your website ADA compliant, remember that there may be a wide variety of content across your site that must be accounted for, including:

  • Images that need alternative text
  • Videos that require captioning and potentially audio descriptions
  • PDFs that need to be made accessible or require conversion to webpages
  • Third-party content

4. Determine the changes and fixes required.

In order to determine what needs to be done to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards, you will need to conduct an audit using both automated and manual testing techniques. You may be able to conduct an audit on your own, but most companies turn to an accessibility expert.

Automated testing finds issues that can be programmatically determined as pass or fail. Only about 30 percent can be automated, which is meaningful but highlights the need for manual auditing.

Manual testing is a review of the code to inspect items that need to be reviewed by a developer, such as the relevance of an alternative image, keyboard testing, focus order, and use of color. Manual testing should also include testing by people with disabilities who use assistive technology such as screen readers.

ADA Accessibility Remediation Calculator

Once you have an audit with a comprehensive list of issues you need to fix, you can create a remediation roadmap, estimate internal resource availability and costs, get an estimate from your agency, or evaluate a dynamic remediation solution such as UsableNet Assistive.

The best accessibility testing software, such as AQA, will perform automated testing and flag issues that need to be manually reviewed. 

5. Consider accessibility monitoring and maintenance up front.

Accessibility is a journey, not a destination. If you are going to invest the time and money to make your site accessible, you need a plan to maintain it. Considering your maintenance plan up front will help you align the right resources, policies, processes, training, tools, and experts to run an effective accessibility program.

To paraphrase our five-star plan to maintain accessibility:

  1. Don’t wait until your website is perfect to tell everyone you care: An accessibility statement is one of the best ways to convey your commitment to accessibility. This document should reflect your company’s goals, hurdles, and plans for future accommodations and support options for people who need accessibility assistance.
  2. Automate testing wherever possible: A common challenge with accessibility is scale, especially in complex, dynamic environments where content and code are changing at a rapid pace. Auditing each website release or change without automation can be too slow and expensive.
  3. Perform screen reader verification on every release: You already QA your site changes for mobile and desktop users. Similarly, assistive technologies such as screen readers help ensure your site releases can be used by the disability community. 
  4. Train your team on accessibility: Accessibility is a team effort—and everyone on your team needs to fully understand and champion these efforts. Just as all employees should be vigilant and knowledgeable about topics such as digital security, so too should they be about web accessibility.
  5. Conduct annual audits and user testing: Once your site is accessible, create an annual cadence of third-party verification that includes at least one audit performed by accessibility experts and one round of user testing with members of the disability community.

Your audit should include:

  • An executive summary for stakeholders that lays out the current state of affairs and addresses in detail the issues that still need to be fixed in order to become compliant
  • A detailed report for developers that breaks down every possible path through the site and flags unresolved issues that users may encounter along the way
  • Open access for anyone (internal or external) who wants to review the results

6. Don’t forget about third-party integrations.

As diligent as your company may be about accessibility, it’s more of a challenge to bring third-party vendors on board. Take stock of all integrations on your site and ask for their policies and documents to make sure they’re up to your level of compliance. If not, you’ll need to work with those vendors to achieve compliance, or consider replacing them.

Some of the most common third-party integrations are live chat, ratings, and payments. The accessibility of these integrations varies greatly, so you should be diligent with existing vendors and make sure all new vendors can prove their compliance and agree to a strong accessibility clause

7. Don’t forget about accessibility for your app.

Accessibility isn’t only for websites. It is critical for mobile apps, connected products, and IoT device applications to be accessible. Be sure to take the apps in your portfolio into account when calculating the cost of ADA compliance.

Users of all ages and abilities expect your apps to be fully accessible, regardless of platform. In fact, by 2030, one in five U.S. residents will be of retirement age and more likely to need devices optimized for visually impaired users. Failing to make your apps ADA compliant now could increase the probability and cost of legal issues for your company in the future. 

8. Purchase the right tools and services.

As we’ve discussed, digital accessibility isn’t a “one and done” project. Everyone in your organization—from IT personnel to content creators, designers, developers, and leadership—must work to maintain accessibility even after the initial website project is complete. 

There are three types of tools you can purchase to help maintain compliance and prevent noncompliant content from being published on your site:

  • Web accessibility evaluation tools: Software such as UsableNet’s AQA can help you keep up with meaningful test coverage, robust integration capabilities, excellent reporting, and testing with assistive technologies.
  • Accessible content management systems: Content creation and management platforms optimized to produce accessible websites help designers, and developers, maintain ADA compliance. WordPress, Drupal, and HubSpot are just a few examples of CMS platforms that have extensive documentation on accessibility capabilities. 
  • Expert services: Web accessibility audits, testing by people with disabilities, and monthly screen reader QA checks can help designers, developers, and testers plan, evaluate, fix, verify, and maintain your site’s accessibility on an ongoing basis.

Factoring the ongoing costs of these tools into your budget will help you ensure your initial accessibility transformation efforts are sustained into the future.

9. Gauge your support needs.

Maintaining ADA compliance requires ongoing support for most companies. Here are just a few of the areas to consider when calculating the cost of your support needs:

  • Policy and procedure reviews: It’s a large task to incorporate accessibility into your company’s DNA. When creating a budget, ask yourself how much time it will take to determine which policies need to be changed and to implement those changes.
  • Outside expertise: It is likely that your company won’t have all of the resources it needs to achieve ADA and WCAG compliance. Consider bringing on outside consultants to establish a corporate strategy or accelerate your training and remediation.
  • Staff education: Maintaining accessibility requires staff training. Make sure to factor in the cost of this training itself as well as the time your employees will spend away from their normal work.

Rest assured: Any resources put toward accessibility today will pay off tomorrow in an increased audience and avoidance of legal action. Need some additional help with setting your budget? Try our free ADA Accessibility Remediation Calculator.

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Founded in 2000, UsableNet created some of the first tools and platforms to make websites accessible and usable for all people. Starting out, we worked with government agencies as well as universities and corporations. Today, accessibility has become important to almost all companies. We provide accessibility solutions to Fortune 1000 companies, small and medium enterprises, government, and education organizations across industries including retail, travel, hospitality, food services, automotive, financial services, and healthcare.

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