Web accessibility is an investment. Like any investment, it carries a cost — but pays dividends, particularly when prioritized from an early stage.
Nevertheless, businesses often focus on the “cost" part of the equation. If you’re developing a budget for a website refresh or a redesign, you’ve probably got questions about how accessibility fits into your project. Here’s what you need to know.
Most accessibility improvements are affordable — and ignoring accessibility isn't an option
According to the Department of Justice, businesses must make their digital products accessible to people with disabilities to comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
If you’re reading this article, you probably know about the importance of digital compliance — and you might also know that web accessibility lawsuits can be expensive, and that the number of ADA lawsuits continues to rise each year.
Here’s something you might not know: Most of the best practices of accessible design cost little or nothing to implement. For example:
- Adding alternative text (alt text) to images.
- Writing descriptive text for hyperlinks.
- Using appropriate color contrast to avoid low-contrast text.
- Creating accurate input labels for forms and other user interface elements.
- Using semantic HTML to improve compatibility with assistive technologies (AT).
If you get into the habit of following these best practices, you’re already in a better position than most websites — and you won’t spend much more time (or money) creating accessible content.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is effectively the rulebook for digital accessibility, and it’s firmly aligned with the best practices of web design. If you’ve got a limited budget, you can simply read through WCAG and follow its guidance.
While you’ll still need to test your content for accessibility, that’s not a huge cost: Automated testing is inexpensive, and occasional manual reviews won’t add much to your budget.
Complex websites require more accessibility considerations
Of course, if you’re building a relatively complex website — such as a large eCommerce store or a web app with desktop-like features — you’ll need to spend more time developing your strategy.
That doesn’t mean that you’ll pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to make an accessible product. However, you’ll need to include a few items in your development budget:
- Regular accessibility audits, which should be completed throughout development and after the product launch.
- Accessibility training for developers, designers, and other teams. While not strictly necessary, accessibility training can help you develop a self-sustainable strategy.
- If you’re outsourcing for design or development, you’ll need to choose developers that understand WCAG and follow the best practices. Those firms tend to be more expensive (but well worth the investment).
It’s important to note that accessibility is much less expensive when treated as a core part of your product. Designing for accessibility is fairly cheap; remediating issues in an existing product may require more work.
How much should I budget for accessibility testing?
Whether you have a simple website or a complex web app with a desktop-like interface, you’ll need to test your content.
Here’s the good news: Automated accessibility testing has come a long way, and it’s extremely affordable. AudioEye’s digital accessibility platform continuously monitors content for issues and performs basic remediations automatically.
All automated tools are limited to the types of issues that machines can identify — barriers like missing alternative text, poor color contrast, and missing form labels. Most websites should also engage in comprehensive accessibility audits with manual testing every 6-8 months.
Manual accessibility tests should be performed by experienced accessibility testers. That carries a cost, but it’s less expensive than a web accessibility lawsuit — and since accessible websites benefit from improved search engine optimization (SEO), stronger brand positioning, and higher levels of user engagement, the investment pays off.
Every business can budget for accessibility, but ignoring accessibility can be expensive
Ultimately, the cost of accessibility ranges based on the number of pages on your website, the amount and type of content on each page, and your approach.
For complex web products, a comprehensive audit can cost several thousand dollars. If the audit finds serious issues, remediation can be much more expensive.
On the other hand, automated audits for a simple website can cost a few dollars per month, and basic remediations carry little to no cost. If you focus on accessibility early, you’ll pay less to address accessibility barriers, and you won’t need to redesign your product due to a poor audit performance.
For tips for controlling the costs of digital accessibility, read: Web Accessibility on a Budget: How to Get Started for Free or Little Cost. To determine how your website stacks up against WCAG Level A/AA guidelines, get started with a free web analysis.