Worth the Risk? Not Making Your Website ADA Compliant vs. Addressing Accessibility

Many organizations weigh the option of not doing anything at all to their website when they find out how much time, effort, and money will be needed to make their website, quote, unquote, ADA compliant. Sharing the screen with me is a document and the heading is, “Is not making your website ADA compliant worth the risk?” Let’s go over the different bullet points I have here and helping you decide whether or not it’s worth the risk. First, you need to have a budget, so you need to have the money able to do this. If you don’t have the budget, it might not be worth it because the money is simply not there and you would have to pull it from somewhere else. So that’s the first bullet point I have, is budget money. An audit is going to cost you $6,500 and then we’ll continue on with money in a second.

The next bullet point I have is time. So you’ve got to research providers, you’ve got to take some sales calls, you’ve got a contract. This is a professional services endeavor, so you’re going to have to talk to people who will be actively providing a service for you. And primarily that service is an audit, but it could also be remediation. So remediation may be done in-house, it may be done by an accessibility provider, it could also be done by a third party agency or a contractor. But there is a significant cost to remediation. And so if you source it out, your cost is likely going to be $6,500 just on average. It could be a lot more, it might be a little bit less, but these two prices, they give you a good feel for $13,000. All in is a fair price to pay for not only finding the accessibility issues on your website but also fixing them. And then there’s also the re-audit. So that would cost even more and take even more time. Of course, you wouldn’t be auditing your own website, but you would need to undergo that and then fix any remaining issues that are found in the re-audit. And there could even be another layer to the process to fully eliminate all of the accessibility issues.

And then so you also have to consider your energy and where your effort is going. There’s opportunity cost to this. If you are working on ADA website compliance, there’s something else that you’re not working on. And then you also have to factor in your reputation and your customers, right, or whoever views your website. Maybe people aren’t actually buying from you, but if they’re visiting your website and they’re having a poor experience, or some people find the website inaccessible, or it’s difficult to use, difficult to access content, difficult to interact with, the website that affects your reputation, it also affects your customer experience. And ultimately, it may affect your conversions, your sales, any other way that you can monetize or capitalize on the traffic. And just the very fact that your website is potentially not accessible to a large demographic, a noteworthy demographic, that’s something that is also going to be factored in.

So another subheading I have here, or the first subheading, is the chances of being sued. Most of the time, your chances of being sued are actually quite low, where you would increase your chances of being sued. First of all, if you are a known brand, a known company, your website has very likely been looked at by plaintiffs’ law firms. So if you are known, if you’re a national chain, if you’re a big brand, if your website is frequently trafficked, then your chances of being sued are very good. But if you’re unknown, if you have less than 15,000 uniques per month, and that’s just an arbitrary number I came up with to indicate that your traffic is on the lower side, it’s much less likely that you would be sued. Also if you’re not in e-commerce. So if you don’t have a Shopify website, if you are not selling products on your website, then again, your chances of being sued are lower. If your website is not connected to a physical location, your chances of being sued are also lower, primarily because in California, a plaintiff cannot successfully bring litigation against a defendant who does not have a physical location. So that takes out the second most litigious state in ADA website compliance. Also, I think there is an increased risk if you have an overlay widget on your website. And so an overlay widget would be one where a menu of options pops up and people can make adjustments to the website. And that does not make your website accessible. It also means that you likely haven’t done anything for accessibility manually.

But what’s important to remember about overlay widgets is they can actually make you a target because then it’s known that you have looked into accessibility but opted for the route that doesn’t do anything. And so you can look at other videos where I talk about overlay widgets, but they don’t make your website accessible and they don’t prevent lawsuits. So what happens a lot of times when the budget isn’t there but the organization still wants to do something about accessibility? What I have heard is people say they are looking for a stopgap approach and the thinking is, okay, well, I can’t afford this audit, or this audit is just too expensive. We don’t like how much it costs, but we want to do something. So we’ll install an overlay widget. And I have been told that directly. An overlay widget is something, it does not make your website accessible. It doesn’t think of it as superficial. It’s a nominal benefit at best. It may actually introduce accessibility issues on your website. So it would make accessing your website more difficult or a worse experience if someone has a disability.

But what happens is website owners feel better when they have it on their website. So that’s one of the stopgap approaches. What I recommend, and part of the reason that I created my ADA compliance course, is that you take a DIY approach, an imperfect approach to accessibility, where you find and fix the most commonly claimed accessibility issues in litigation. Now, this isn’t comprehensive and this is DIY, so it’s going to be imperfect. But if you’re looking for what people deem a stopgap approach, this would be one where you’re genuinely making your website more accessible and you’re also lowering your risk of litigation. And so it’s not something where you can consider website accessibility done and finished, but it is something where you can feel much more confident about your website as it stands, because you are going to significantly reduce the number of accessibility issues on your website, particularly those that plaintiffs’ law firms are looking for. And so in the course, I’ve incorporated all of the most commonly claimed issues in litigation in this course, and then I instruct whoever’s taking the course on how to find and how to fix those issues. You will need a developer, someone with a development background will need to go through the course and implement some of many of the accessibility considerations that are in the course.

But this course, if you take it, it is a much, much cheaper approach to accessibility and it is one where you are going to significantly reduce your risk of litigation if you implement all of the lessons and do so correctly. So to me, that is a true stopgap approach where you’re actually significantly lowering your risk of litigation because overlay widgets don’t do anything. But that’s what most people want. They want the easiest answer and they want someone really what plays out a lot of times is they want someone to lie to them and tell them this will work so that they can feel better about what they’re doing. But if someone’s lying to you, then you’re going to fail, right? Because what we’ve seen over and over again is that overlay widgets, they don’t prevent litigation. People still get sued despite having those on there. And sometimes the plaintiffs’ law firm’s complaint, if you look at the complaint filed in court, they will acknowledge the presence of the overlay widget and then completely toss it to the side, and rightfully so, because it does not make your website accessible.

So if you’re weighing whether or not to address accessibility, of course, I highly, highly recommend you make your website accessible because people really are dependent upon accessibility to access information, to interact with the website, to buy products and services, etc. So it is really, really important just from the standpoint of, hey, other people are, if I don’t do this, then other people are going to be negatively impacted. But there’s also the reality that not everyone can afford accessibility. It costs money to make your website accessible. There is an expense to it. That’s a reality. You cannot ignore that reality, especially if you’re a small business on a limited budget. There aren’t a lot of things you can do for $1,000 or under where you’re getting real professional accessibility services. Another potential option to look into accessibility is to hire a consultant for an hour and talk to them about what is possible and what you can do within the confines of your budget. Because there are ways to make progress. There’s going to be more DIY, so more of this is going to be in-house. But there are things that are doable. So it’s not binary because I have experience where people think it’s either they pay $5,000 enough for an audit or they do nothing. And that’s not the case. And remember that just because you have an audit does not mean you have made any progress on your website. You only now know the issues that reside on your website. So weighing this, we have to make this realistic.

And the way that you make it realistic is you understand all of the options in play if accessibility of hiring an accessibility professional to provide audit services, to provide remediation services, if that is beyond your budget, then you have to look at what you can realistically do to improve accessibility. And there are things you can do to improve accessibility where it’s not really a matter of technical expertise, it’s more a matter of effort and the willingness to go ahead and make adjustments. Doing so as a non-technical person, that can only take you so far, but it will put you in a better spot than if you do nothing. So there are things you can do even on a zero budget, even if you’re a solo entrepreneur and you have a website right now, you can go into that website and you can make some adjustments to make your website more accessible. And of course, I’ve talked about different things you can do at length, but you can look at accessible.org and download my WCAG checklist and my WCAG guide. If you read through those, you will have an idea of different things that you can do right now that are non-technical and only require effort.