Failing to make your website accessible can be incredibly expensive in the form of large lawsuit settlements. But just how much of your budget do you need to dedicate to website accessibility to prevent one of these lawsuits?
The short answer is the cost of making your website accessible depends on its complexity and what needs to be done. But roughly, it will cost 10–15 percent of the original budget for designing and building your website.
Understanding what factors can impact website accessibility budgeting and the importance of ongoing reporting and monitoring will ensure your project is successful long-term. Here’s what you need to know about budgeting for website accessibility.
The Three Levels of Website Accessibility Conformance
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) outline three levels of website accessibility conformance.
· Level A
· Level AA
· Level AAA
Most businesses need their websites to be Level AA to avoid a costly lawsuit. Basically, if a website accessibility firm is quoting you a project for Level A and saying it is a good place to start, this isn’t the agency you should work with. Level A accessibility will do little to truly welcome guests of all abilities and protect yourself from legal troubles.
Likewise, if a website accessibility firm is pushing you to conform your website to Level AAA standards, you should probably keep looking. Only companies specifically designed for an audience with disabilities really need Level AAA. For example, the National Federation of the Blind invites those with sight limitations to an annual conference and to sign up via their website. Given their audience, a website that conforms to even the toughest standards will make sense.
Level AA has 38 guidelines that websites might meet. These guidelines cover the design, content and HTML structure of the website.
What Changes Need to be Made to Your Website
Another large factor in the cost of your web accessibility is what changes you need to make to your website. You might find that your brand colors are inaccessible, leading to a project to add an accessibility section to your brand guidelines.
All photos throughout the site might be missing alt text or you might need to add page markup.
But the most expensive changes to your website come in the form of website structure or HTML changes. Some major considerations include:
· Making the website functionality available via keyboard
· Keyboard control for sliders
· Captioning all audio and video content
You’ll need a website developer with accessibility expertise who can update the code on your website.
Planning for Maintaining Your Website Accessibility
Once you’ve undergone a website accessibility project, you should still have quarterly reviews to ensure your website remains accessible. As you update your content and add new features to the site, you might need to make adjustments to keep your website ready to welcome people of all abilities.
Ongoing website accessibility reporting and accessibility adjustments ensure the long-term usability of your website and further help prevent lawsuits.
Quarterly audits might show images missing alt text, color contrast issues, audio or video lacking subtitles or transcription and a variety of other ongoing content issues that could prevent your website from welcoming visitors.
These quarterly reports will likely cost $500-$1,000. Expect to spend more for remediating issues found in the reports.
Why should you spend money on ongoing reports when there are free tools out there to do this work? Because all web accessibility evaluation tools always need a human review. No tool is perfect and an algorithm can’t evaluate specific use cases and how code appears on the screen visually for a reader.
Reviewing these reports is tedious work and requires deep and meaningful expertise that automated tools simply aren’t capable of.
Benefits of Website Accessibility
Investing in website accessibility isn’t just about preventing costly lawsuits — though that’s probably the largest financial motivator for businesses. Making your website accessible provides a wide variety of benefits outside of compliance with a set of guidelines.
· Physical abilities can be permanent, temporary or situational, meaning your target audience might have varying needs on different days even if they don’t have a documented disability
· Web accessibility guidelines have tons of crossover with SEO best practices, meaning you’ll be poised for higher search rankings
· It’s good for business because you won’t be turning away the 61 million adults in the United States who live with a disability (that’s 1 in 4 adults)
· Avoid lawsuits and legal battles with documented proof of constantly working toward welcoming all website visitors
· Reach a broader market with your products and services
· Improved user experience even for the average website visitor thanks to removing clunky HTML or other factors that slow websites down
· It’s the right thing to do, which means it can make your organization feel better about what you do and why you do it while also providing good public relations opportunities for you to be an advocate for accessible business
Ultimately, website accessibility is not a missed item anymore. In March 2022, the Justice Department issued web accessibility guidance under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s a step toward legal grounds for lawsuits and greater clarity around what businesses must do with their website to be compliant.
So how much should you budget for updating your website for accessibility? The initial project will likely cost $10,000 to $25,000. The ongoing review and maintenance will likely cost $2,000 to $4,000 annually depending on the changes and updates required.
The best-case scenario is to include accessibility at the beginning of a new website. In so doing, you’ll reduce accessibility costs to be only 5–10 percent of your budget.
For more information on website accessibility, review our other blogs on the topic:
At Design Positive, we help improve brands by building accessible websites, creating a foundation for SEO and improving their customer experience while doing it all in an access-to-all approach.