Small Business Owner New to ADA Website Compliance Asks Kris Questions

Kris: Okay, I’ve got a different type of episode today. Joining with me is my friend David, and David is a business owner, and when he found out the work I’m involved in, he had no idea that this was even, that litigation was even possible for not having a website or having a website with accessibility issues on it. And as I explained to him that it’s a real problem, and he learned more and more, he had questions, but we still, we haven’t talked about it at length, and I brought David on the show because I want to, I wanted to have an interview where I’m just getting organic questions from someone who is really unfamiliar with this space, other than an initial discussion, which was brief, David doesn’t know the extent of what I do and all of the details, so I’ve had it on, I’ve had it, I’m having them on now, David, thank you for joining, yeah, let’s talk about ADA website compliance, like initially, what were your thoughts when I told you what I did?

David: All right, first off, thanks for having me, yeah, I have heard in the past the word ADA compliant, but I have no idea what it means, I have a website for my businesses, and it was never explained to me that websites have to be ADA compliant, and in the past, me and you have talked a little bit, but why would someone’s website need to be ADA compliant, and what happens if it’s not, exactly what is it also?

Kris: To make a website ADA compliant, what you’re doing is making sure that your website provides meaningful access to people with disabilities, and there are a wide range of disabilities, typically, when we talk about ADA compliance, especially in regards to litigation, most people are focused in on blind or visually impaired users, but ADA compliance applies to anyone with a disability and making sure that they have meaningful access to your website. Now, what has happened is this, there’s an industry, a small industry that’s opened up around litigation in this space, and so plaintiffs’ lawyers typically have a blind plaintiff, and they allege that because they are not able to access the website in some form or fashion, or because accessibility issues exist, that the website is therefore not ADA compliant, and they are entitled to damages, and sometimes you will get notice of litigation through a demand letter, other times there will be a complaint filed against you in court, and this industry really is being dictated, on the legal side, it’s being dictated by plaintiffs’ law firms, so it’s not the DOJ’s unofficial stance that’s moving the different private entities under Title III, but it is the private litigation side. Okay, so would you say someone could purposely be going through different websites also to see if they’re ADA compliant, and possibly if it’s not, they would want to sue these businesses? Oh, well, that’s the majority of litigation currently, is what are called testers, so they are going to websites with the idea that they are testing them, and in the claims, it will vary as to the purpose and the reason why, sometimes you’ll see that the plaintiffs are claiming that they were legitimately going to a website to buy something, and then other times it will, and sometimes it will be a dual purpose, it will be, I was going to buy something, but I’m also testing the website to ensure it’s compliant, but usually the underlying reason is someone visits the website purely to test it for accessibility issues.

David: Okay, for example, I don’t know any of this, I would assume that when I go and have a website designer build my website, that he would automatically make it ADA compliant, is that the case most of the time or not at all?

Kris: Not at all, the only way that you would have that type of assurance is if the designer developer agency went out of their way to feature and focus in on WCAG conformance and ADA compliance, and so that would need to be something that’s explicitly stated, otherwise you can expect a website per your scope, but one that would likely contain accessibility issues, and so the technical standards that we look to are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, there are different versions of those guidelines, the present version is 2.1, we usually go off what is called conformance level AA, so all that amounts to is there are several things in 2.1 AA, 50 things that we need to consider when making our website accessible, and that’s become sort of a default standard to stave off litigation and to, as a best practice to make your website ADA compliant, but that would not come as the natural course of just hiring a web designer, most web designers, most web developers are unfamiliar with accessibility.

David: Well that’s kind of scary because personally I would think make my website, I thought a website was just a website, I didn’t know about this ADA compliance, it’s kind of scary right, we think we’re protected in every way and we’re not, how would I go about getting my website ADA compliant, what would a company charge me to make it ADA compliant, I know costs vary, but can you break down something like that?

Kris: Yes, so most of the, so the traditional path is for someone to learn that website accessibility is something that they can be sued over and then they immediately go to a company that specializes in accessibility, the problem is that most of the accessibility providers, and there are different types of providers and sellers selling different things, but most of them, first of all they don’t actually offer to remediate or fix your website, second of all some are just selling widgets, if the widgets do nothing but they will lie to you and tell you that they make your website accessible or ADA compliant, and the problem is that the audits aren’t tailored really towards litigation, which is really what people are getting at when they’re asking about ADA compliance, how do I stop my website from being sued? Well 2.1 AA conformance is the best practice, but there is a way to approach it strategically where you can lower your risk of litigation, the website accessibility companies, that’s not their specialty, their specialty is accessibility and working through WCAG conformance, but they are not completely aligned with ADA compliance, so what you’re asking for and what you’re getting in the market are mismatched, and the more precision you have the more likely you are to prevent litigation, but there have been numerous times where private business has hired an accessibility company, they get an audit and then they start to work on it and they’ve still been sued, because for several reasons, but one is the audit does nothing to make your website quote unquote ADA compliant, all the audit does is show you the issues that exist on your website, you then have to go and remediate or fix those issues, so again most accessibility companies don’t remediate and almost, I mean really I can’t think of one that’s completely aligned to litigation, but the total cost would be for to audit and remediate depends on who you go to, usually the starting cost is going to be let’s say $7,500 if you have an extremely simple website for both audit and remediation, but usually you’ll end up at least at $15,000 and that’s even if you can get remediation from a provider because most will not edit your website’s content or code.

David: So say we’re spending anywhere from $7,500 to $15,000 going to these ADA companies, how much work are they actually doing for that amount of money?

Kris: Well they’re doing quite a lot, especially if they are truly auditing for WCAG 2.1 AA conformance, I mean you asked a good question because some of the companies, their audits are poor quality and then others have better quality, you’re aiming for that excellent quality, but it really does take a significant amount of manual work, even if you have an automated scan, even if you’re even if you’re leveraging an automated scan, your level of work is still there. So accessibility companies, they don’t actually have that great of margins because it is so time intensive and it requires such a high degree of knowledge, expertise and skill to do this that it usually does cost a lot. So you can even think of with margins like they’re not like it’s not even 50% gross margins, so it is quite a bit of work and on the remediation side again it is difficult to find developers who are actually knowledgeable and can execute this properly because that’s the other part. You need precision on this because if someone does not, for example, if they do not audit your website right, if they do not audit your website and find all of the issues, then you’ll still have the issues remaining that you think you are clear for and you think that your website has already found, like you’ve already found all the issues when you haven’t. And then the same thing with remediation, if someone doesn’t remediate correctly and issues remain, then you may have spent all of that money and yet still not prevented the lawsuit.

David: Okay, I know you have a course on ADA. What would that course do for me compared to going to a company to have this done?

Kris: So the course is it directly gets to how to prevent litigation through genuine accessibility and I say that because there are overlay widgets that claim that they will prevent litigation. They won’t. That’s been proven time and again. And what my course does is it tells you exactly what accessibility issues are being claimed over and over again by the most active plaintiff’s law firm. So I took, I have taken the top 15 accessibility issues that are claimed in litigation by the most active plaintiff’s law firms, the ones that you are most likely, you would most likely be involved in litigation with if someone did sue you. I’ve taken all of their claims and incorporated into this course and I’ve made them lessons in the course. So the course tells you how to find the accessibility issues and then how to fix them. And it does so in a step-by-step manner. So you as a website owner are going to know, are you going to know first of all what you need to pay attention to because you’re not going to be the one that’s doing the actual work. But you do have something that you can hand over as an SOP or step-by-step instructions to your designer, to your developer, to your content editor. Whoever’s taking care of your website can go, hey, look, I have this course. I need you to go through this course and incorporate all of the lessons in the strategic manner that he advises. And so that’s all inside of the course and really it’s tailored to website owners who want to immediately get a sense of relief from litigation. If you go into the course and you go through all 15 lessons and incorporate those lessons into the website, it is extremely unlikely that you would be sued. If you did, it would be because they did not look at your website. But those issues are the but those issues are the ones that come up over and over and over in litigation. And they are the ones that could in theory, many of them are in theory, the ones that could be a potential barrier to access. So it could mean that someone who is using a screen reader could not actually check out on your website and make a purchase. So that would be that practical barrier to access that could result from some of the issues that are that I’ve made into lessons. So but because you have those lessons, if you incorporate the fixes in those lessons into your website, then those barriers to access would not exist.

David: So for someone like me, I’m not very tech savvy. It’s a course pretty easy to follow to the point where I could go to my website designer. Okay, I want you to incorporate this, this, I think this is important, or hand them over kind of your course. I want you to go over what he says and incorporate that into into my website. Is it is it that simple?

Kris: It’s that simple. You could give your login to your web developer or your constant editor and tell them to get started. And that’s it. That’s really it. And I always advise though, that website owners understand what is in the course. So you don’t have to go through the course and read all of it. But you should understand the different things that are coming into play, because ultimately, you are responsible for your website. So you want to have some sense of what’s going on. Because if you just leave this to your web developer or web designer, and they don’t incorporate everything, then you’re still responsible for it. And ultimately, you’re the one that ends up being engaged in litigation. But it is it is written and designed in a plain English, that someone can go in and understand what is being asked of, and then source that out to their team. Now you there will be something there will be someone who needs to have a developer background, because some of the success criteria are more technical. And there’s no way around that. So you would need someone who has a development background, but such is the case with building a website, right? Usually you have to have it for any type of more complex website, you need to have a development background. So sometimes you can use themes, which is great. So if you’re the website owner, you may be able to do everything yourself. But understand that if you are editing the underlying code, you will you would need someone with a developer skill set.

David: Okay. Um, how much would this course run?

Kris: Currently, the course is at $300, it’s at 299. And that’s a one-time fee. And that’s, that sounds extremely low. And it is this is there’s nothing like this on the market. And there’s nothing that there’s nothing even close. And there’s nothing close, even close in terms of value, even those accessibility widgets, the overlay widgets that do nothing, they don’t make your website accessible, they don’t stop litigation, they they don’t make your website ADA compliant, those costs at least $50 a month for the starting point. And that’s in perpetuity, right? Like if you get one of those widgets, even you know, as the cheap option that does nothing, they still are going to run you at least $600 a year. And it’s an ongoing subscription, you never stop paying that. So even if in theory, they work, it’s a it’s a price in perpetuity. The course is a one-time fee. What’s really nice is I’ve added anybody that’s a member of the course, if they would like support, they can also purchase support through the course. And the support is at a lower price point so that someone could order the support a la carte and then be able to email and then ask questions and get that type of support. So it is really, really helpful in multiple ways. But that’s that’s the price point.

David: So I could get this course, right? And how much do you say 399? Or is that we said? No, it’s actually 299. Oh, wow, even better. So I’ll pay 299. I hand that over to to my web designer. He’s probably going to charge me a couple hundred bucks or something, or let’s just say even $1,000. So I could have my website ADA compliant after purchasing this course and whatever my website designer charges me. So just like that, I could be saving anywhere from from $8,000, $10,000 instead of going to an ADA company.

Kris: Yeah, and there there really aren’t any ADA companies in this space. I wouldn’t term any of them as ADA companies. I would say that they were their access digital accessibility companies. Yes, your savings are that large. Now, I wouldn’t what is ADA compliant for a website is up for interpretation. The best practice is to be fully conformant with those technical standards I was referring to earlier. But what this will do is this will give you a sense of relief that you’re not going to get a demand letter or you’re not going to be sued one day and find out about it through the worst way possible. All of a sudden, you’re sitting there and you find out, you’ve been sued because your website’s inaccessible. This course, once completed, is going to virtually eliminate that because there really wouldn’t be any accessibility issues that the plaintiff’s law firms are looking for. Those wouldn’t exist on your website. It wouldn’t mean that your website is void of any accessibility issues, but it would mean that you would have taken care of all of the issues that are most commonly claimed in litigation by the plaintiff’s lawyers in this space.

David: Yeah, for me, it’s very important as a business owner that when I go to bed, I don’t stress as much because personally, it’s kind of scary because I think about my business, day-to-day operations, something could happen, I could get sued. And now I’m thinking, man, I could get sued just as much through my website. And if there’s a course like this, I could help protect myself so I could be ADA compliant. I mean, thank you. Why so cheap? Why $299? That’s a no-brainer for someone like me.

Kris: Well, and I wanted to make the course so that everyone could afford it. And I think small, because what has happened, and I know this better than anybody, is the small business owners have been completely left out of this. There really isn’t a good option for small business owners because the website accessibility companies, you’re looking at easily $2,500 just to start with an audit. And that’s including myself. I’m a provider in this space, but I am a small business. And I understand that these costs are high. This is a lot, especially for some businesses that are really they’re working on the fringe. You have your small business owner, they’re an entrepreneur. They’re not even getting paid. They’re just getting the money back, the profits they make or what they’re living on. And so it’s just not affordable, but yet there are still these small business owners remain at risk. So I wanted to make sure that this course is affordable to everyone. And that’s why it’s so inexpensive. But that is not to mean that I did not like so much of my own knowledge and experience with this and looking through demand letters and then understanding the plaintiff’s lawyers, what they’re looking for. And then my own background in this has come into play. And then I’ve also just spent literally dozens of hours creating the course and tailoring it to where it has code examples, to where it has instructions on how to do things step by step, to where every lesson has a video with an explanation from me talking through exactly what it is. And then the other thing that I think the other thing that I think adds a lot of value is it’s not long. I designed it to be two and a half hours or under because if I were the one going through the course, I wouldn’t want a lengthy course. And I think that’s where that’s one problem with a lot of training is it’s so convoluted. And people first need to prevent litigation, right? There’s no need to pay out plaintiff’s law firms. Let’s get right to the point and make sure that we stop these lawsuits and then we can learn about we can have the empathy training. Then we can learn about all of the WCAG success criteria. But until that point, we need to get a sense of relief. And this is coming from my point of view as a small business owner. Show me how to stop from being sued and then I will work on the rest of accessibility. But the beautiful part is you’re still working on accessibility even as you go through the course. You will genuinely make your website much more accessible to people with disabilities as you work through the course. But it’s going to prevent litigation at the same time. And then once you get that sense of relief, then you can go, okay, now we can continue on with WCAG conformance. And I have a separate course for that where it’s only $50, but it will take you through the rest and explain the rest of the success criteria, which are very technical, but it explains it in a plain English way. But with this course, I wanted to make it inexpensive and really just take out the rest of the market and make it an obvious choice. Like you said, because I do think it’s the best option, but it’s the option that I think people need to purchase to start with and become aligned with what they’re really trying to do the market. And the customers and the providers in the market are mismatched. And I want to cancel that.

David: This hits home a little bit. I own my business is boxing gyms. And you know, we play music, every gym plays music at their gym. And for a while, it was for a good six months gyms were getting sued left and right, because they were playing music inside the gym. They didn’t have the copyrights and they needed to pay all this money to I don’t know what. So you had these law firms just suing small gyms, even when there was only five persons in a class and they were playing music. So I kind of relate that to this because they’re going in the websites. Oh, look, it’s not ADA compliant. Let’s sue them. So yeah, that’s scary. But I’m glad that there’s a program like this, where it’s going to save me thousands of dollars. And it’s straightforward to the point where I could just log on, then go to my web designer, give him the login information that I’m following this course, this is what I want, make it happen. That’s just so convenient. And then I don’t have to stress out about that. That’s another worry I get to eliminate at night. I’m sure most business owners think like me, the less we have to worry about, the better. One more question. I’m sorry. One more question I was going to ask. What other services do you offer? Let’s just say I get this course, I go to my web designer, I get it up and going. Can I hire you for consulting or to check my website or help me out? Is that available also?

Kris: Yes, I still offer an audit. I still offer remediation. The starting price for both is probably $3,500. But you do have to go through me for the audit to get the remediation. But I still offer the traditional services. Those are available. But yeah, and so you can also consult with me. And all of that, all of the traditional services are still in place. But my prices are going to be, they’re definitely not the top of the market. But I’m not the cheapest prices either. But someone can expect excellent quality if they want the done for you solution. So many many entities, they will, they will, I’ve even had someone tell me like, look, I like your course, but I don’t like, I don’t have time to go through this. I want to just have someone do it for me. And I will provide that service. So if somebody wants to go through me, and they say, Hey, just do it for us. We don’t want to work with this. If you go through me, it will, it will include beyond the claims in litigation, it will include we will find all of the issues on your website. And then we will fix all of them that are code related. And then within the scope, we will have to work out your content. So let’s say you have a video or you have you have a podcast on your website, or you have images on your website, all of that would be considered content. And editing content is beyond the development side of this. So that would be something that we would talk about ahead of time and say, like, you know, do you want to go through me for this, because you’re going to pay a premium for the content remediation. But if you want everything done all in one place, we can do that too. But just so you know, you might want to take this on in house, especially if, for example, you want to, you know, can have a messaging specific to your images, or if that’s, you know, because branding and messaging is important to a lot of companies, and they might like, for example, if you have an e commerce website, you might want the descriptions of those product images to be a certain description to convey a certain feel and atmosphere and branding, then that would be that would be something you’d want to take on. But we can certainly provide all text descriptions through through what we think the meaning of the image would be. But that’s just an example. Yes, we handle all all of the traditional website accessibility services.

David: Okay, so my question is this also, if I go to these big companies that take care of this, I’m thinking as a business owner, they’re obviously going to charge for their services, and they’re going to charge as much as they can. Because then they have someone they employed or working with someone like you, that they have to pay a lot of money, and then they have to charge to profit themselves, right? And if I go with someone like you that just does everything and you guys take care of it yourself, I imagine I would get better service and still possibly pay less than what I would pay these big companies. Am I right?

Kris: Yes, so with me, anybody that anybody that reaches out to me, I’m still answering everything myself. Like you if you email me, you will get a response from me. I contract work out to contractors. I have done some of the work in the past. I know so I can tell right away the quality and making sure my contractors are up to that excellent standard. But yes, you’re dealing with me is still run as a small business. And so I am even though even though my audits are going to cost multiple thousands of dollars, it’s still going to be on that lower price and maybe like towards the medium side of it. But I don’t like you said, I don’t have all of that overhead. So I’m not passing that along. And now I’m incorporating more and more artificial intelligence into the process. So that’s going to help me bring down the costs. Artificial intelligence still isn’t at a point where we can just automate everything. But there are parts that we can automate and lower the cost down. And so that’s what I’m doing really, like, I don’t see. I don’t see this as, you know, someone comes to me and I try to extract as much money as I possibly can get from them. That’s not how I operate. I operate as let me be an excellent provider to a client. And then I think that will act as a referral or just, you know, a positive testimonial review potentially, but I will get favorable, I leave people with a favorable, a good experience to where that they recommend me to others. And that’s really the type of business operations and ethos that I like to have. Yeah, yeah. I agree. That’s where I like dealing with people that give me the best service, that help me make my life easier. Because most business owners, like I said earlier, that’s what we want. And we have someone like you, your company to help us. I just think it’s a big advantage for us. Yeah, especially in this industry, because sometimes getting ahold of somebody is not, it’s difficult, right? Like you have to ask for them, you might not get the direct person, you might not be talking to the person you want to, it might be just like a rep. And then you’re not getting straight answers. And then also in this industry, the other part of it is not everybody has the knowledge to converse and flex in and out of different subjects. So with me, if you’re asking a technical question, I can answer most of the technical questions for you. And with the contractors, yes, if you want to talk to them and you want someone who’s a web developer, then you can talk to them too. You can have that consultation as well. But with me, I’m an attorney. I understand the different technical standards. I understand what the plaintiff’s law firms are looking for practically, because there’s a legal side of this, which is the technical side. And then there’s the practical side is let’s just not get sued. And so I can easily flex in and out of all of those different niche domains to where I can talk to you one-on-one about most of the questions you have. And so that’s really a benefit with me. And like I said, I really do email. I respond to emails usually within a few hours. The only time where I don’t is if the email goes to spam and I don’t get it until a day or two later.

David: Okay. So let’s just say, okay, I want to make my website ADA compliant. Let’s just say I want to go the route. I want to try to save money. How do I get started? Just go to your website and get your course. To save money, go to the course and know that you will need a web developer. So for some of the lessons, you don’t need a web developer.

Kris: You can get started even as a non-technical person just going through the course. And with the course, you will understand as long as you can get inside of your content management system, you will be able to make significant strides in accessibility. But at some point, you will need someone with a development background because code level changes must be made. And that’s, we get back to these overlay widgets. I don’t know if you’ve ever come across one, but they’re basically, they have this little accessibility logo. And it’s usually on the bottom right or left of the screen. And you open it and there’s this menu of supposed accessibility options. The problem is, is they are not those, any changes or adjustments you are making to the website are only laying over the website. And they’re not actually making accessible. But even if they were, they’re laying over the website. Whereas what you need to do is actually edit the code of the website. And so that’s why there are no, that’s why there is no software or there is no quick fix or instant solution is because you cannot, that does not make your website accessible. And so yes, if you are going the cheapest route possible, you want to get my ADA compliance Course first, and then couple that with either starting yourself as the DIY. And so working through the accessibility issues that you can. And by the way, the course tells you the level of complexity, technical complexity for each lesson. So you will know if it’s a beginner complexity, you will know if it’s intermediate and you will know if it’s advanced. And if it is advanced, then you will need a developer and or designer to work on that accessibility issue. So that’s all you can find out right now what accessibility issues you can start taking care of as the website owner yourself. But this is definitely the cheapest option. And then you just pair it with a web developer. And obviously you’ll need a competent web developer.

Kris: So we’re picking up on a second part because the video cut out momentarily. But we’ll pick up right at the end of that conversation. David, did you have another question to follow that?

David: Yeah, so you just answered the question is what’s the cheapest way to route to go. Now, my other question is this because this is the way I work personally. Kris, can you make my website ADA compliant? I don’t want to deal with it. I want you to do everything from A to Z. I don’t want to be bothered. Can you handle everything?

Kris: I can but I need the notes to that are I need to have full access and I will also have to evaluate if you have any third party integration. So anything like let’s just say a social integration where you have Instagram embedded into your website like an Instagram feed that I cannot change because that code for most third party integrations is already set and it’s being served from somewhere else or it’s embedded and so I usually can’t access or maybe not usually but there are many times where I cannot access the third party integrations. So that will be a judgment call on your part. If this third party integration introduces accessibility issues, what do we need to do with it now? What should our next steps be? And as someone who is remediating your website for accessibility, that is not my judgment call. My judgment call is to make everything that you have accessible per WCAG guidelines but you will have to have a say in ultimately the content, so I can take care of everything but I will present to you the next line of questions or decisions that you have as a business owner, as the website owner.

David: Okay, that was basically my question.

Kris: Okay, perfect. Well, David, thank you so much for coming on the channel and asking these questions because I really think it’s going to help other people put this into context and understand better how everything works because a lot of times I’m talking and I’m not looking at it solely from someone who is a business or a website owner but is still new to the industry of ADA website compliance and website accessibility, so thank you for coming on and asking these questions.

David: Yeah, you’re welcome. Thanks for having me.