Asking “how long will an accessibility audit take?” is similar to asking “how much will my car repair cost?”
The quick answer: It depends. For a large eCommerce website, an accessibility audit might take months, depending on the size of the development team and their level of commitment to remediation. For a small website, a basic audit can be completed within a day.
When performing audits, the Bureau of Internet Accessibility evaluates each website or mobile app independently. We provide a timeline for both auditing and help estimate remediation, which helps our clients understand the logistics of the process — and establish a long-term plan for compliance.
Whether you’re performing an audit independently or working with an accessibility partner, you’ll need the right approach to create better content for your users. Below, we’ll discuss some of the factors that affect accessibility audit timelines, along with some key considerations that determine successful outcomes.
Setting Goals for Digital Accessibility Audits and Remediation
For most organizations, the purpose of an accessibility audit is to meet an established set of conformance or compliance requirements. This makes the success of the initiative measurable: If an audit shows that a site complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the initiative is a success.
However, many non-discrimination laws lack precise technical standards for digital accessibility. For that reason, most accessibility audits measure conformance with the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the international standards for digital accessibility.
Published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG outlines three levels of conformance:
- Level A - The least strict level of conformance, Level A includes checkpoints and success criteria that can severely impact the experiences of users with disabilities.
- Level AA - Level AA includes all Level A success criteria along with additional criteria. Websites that earn Level AA conformance are considered reasonably accessible for most users.
- Level AAA - The most strict level of conformance includes all Level A and Level AA success criteria along with additional criteria that address complex, highly specific accessibility issues. Level AAA conformance isn’t attainable for some types of content, but many Level AAA criteria are still helpful for delivering the best possible user experience.
Most websites aim for Level AA conformance. An audit should evaluate conformance with all Level A and Level AA success criteria using a combination of manual and automated tests.
Factors That Affect Accessibility Audit Timelines
Automated accessibility scans can be completed very quickly, and they’re useful for finding some types of barriers. However, as we’ve noted in other articles, automated testing has a high chance of returning false negatives and false positives. To ensure conformance with WCAG (and compliance with the ADA and other laws), manual testing is essential.
Manual tests should be performed by subject matter experts (SMEs) who have substantial experience in the digital accessibility space. Often, these testers have low vision, hearing disabilities, or other conditions that affect their internet use.
Factors that affect the timeline of a manual audit include:
The testing team will need to identify a representative sample of the pages on the target website. Websites with a greater variety of content may take longer to audit.
Additionally, certain types of content (for example, mobile apps or complex web applications) may require more in-depth testing than other types of content.
Number and Severity of Accessibility Issues
Professional accessibility audits usually have several phases. After presenting a report on known issues, developers will perform a round of remediations, at which point the content can be tested again.
To make this process easier (and less time consuming), the Bureau of Internet Accessibility delivers reports that can be imported into internal ticket tracking systems such as Basecamp, Bugzilla, Jira, or Trello.
Accessibility SMEs can answer questions, propose solutions, and help developers understand how improvements will affect real-world users. While remediation guidance can extend the timeline of an audit, it’s crucial for creating a long-term strategy for conformance.
Accessibility doesn’t have a “project completion" date
When considering accessibility audit timelines, it’s important to recognize that the work of accessibility doesn’t end after remediation. Organizations that treat their users with disabilities as an afterthought fail to do the necessary work for long-term success.
However, with help from an experienced accessibility partner, WCAG compliance is certainly achievable on a reasonable timeline. By delivering in-depth reports with specific recommendations, the Bureau of Internet Accessibility helps clients earn compliance while adopting the best practices of digital accessibility.