Why is the Website Accessibility Market so Confusing? (Buying Products, Services for ADA Compliance)

Welcome to my presentation titled Why Is The Market So Confusing? The subtitle is the ADA Book Buyer’s Guide to Website Accessibility Products and Services. I’m recording this as a PowerPoint, and I am on video in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

And you may also hear my dog snoring in the background. He insists on being in the room with me. Continuing on, my name is Kris Rivenburgh. I’m an attorney. I’m the author of the ADA Book. I’m also the founder of accessible.org and the creator of the ADA Compliance Course.

I have four guides published in Bloomberg Law, and those guides are specific to ADA compliance and Website Accessibility. I have over five years of experience in this space and I’ve worked with over 100 clients.

So let’s get right into it. Why doesn’t the market make sense? Well, one reason is you have different entities selling different things and sometimes what they are selling isn’t clear.

And this is even to me, so I can go on to some websites, read through the description, and still not know exactly what would be- what I would get if I were to make a purchase. But the common theme amongst sellers is they’re all claiming to help with website accessibility.

But what you need to know is if they help the way they help and how much they help are very much different. And what adds to the confusion is the gray area of ADA compliance.

So there is no law or regulation that explicitly states How to Make a Website ADA compliant and then you have litigation which invokes fear and uncertainty, and a sense of urgency, and sellers often take advantage of that. So what are we buying?

Well, something to make our website more accessible to people with disabilities. Why are we buying it? Usually in response to litigation or to prevent litigation? On occasion, some organizations are just genuinely interested in improving accessibility.
And there may be a combination of all three, but it usually centers around litigation.

So what are our options? Well on this slide, I have 19 different sellers in the space. And there are literally dozens more but I’m going to read through this slide.

AccessiBe, EqualWeb, AudioEye, MicroAssist, Level Access, Deque, UsableNet, Accessibility.works, WeCo, UserWay, BOIA, Monsido, TGPI, Accessible Metrics, CrownPeak, AccessibilityOz, Knowbility, BarrierBreak, WebAim.
And these organizations vary greatly in their reputability and what they offer but they are all in this market. And the order of- that I have these in is generally the order that I found them in Google when I was creating this slide.

Now, which option should we choose? Well, you want to choose the option that best solves your need because remember, different people are looking for different things. If you are if your objective is to prevent litigation. You need to find- so audit and fix- so remediate accessibility issues on your website. So you’re looking for audit and audit and remediation.

If you are responding to litigation, you may also need user testing and documentation. And this is because these items can be stipulations as part of a settlement agreement. And to improve accessibility. You may also be interested in training and help with program management.

So generally you can bucket the offerings into five different categories. So that’s what I’ve done for this presentation. And these categories are automated solutions and I have solutions in quotes, automated scans and reporting, mid-tier agency audits, user testing services, and enterprise-level packages that include audits.

Now, of course, not every seller fits perfectly into these different buckets, but generally, sellers fall into one of the five. So let’s start off with automated solutions. I have solutions in quotes and that will remain so for the remainder of the presentation and that’s because they don’t solve for anything in the sense that the problem you are attempting to deal with will not be resolved through these automated solutions.

So typically, they are referred to as overlays, widgets, toolbars, apps, plugins, etc. But in the premise is that basically, you can make your website instantly accessible or more accessible. But the problem is they don’t make your website accessible and they haven’t prevented litigation.

And we know this because there are literally over 200 lawsuits on record, where a business owner and organization had an overlay installed and nevertheless was sued.
And then so these automated solutions will claim or insinuate their solution will make your website ADA compliant and WCAG conformant.
And then there’s usually a free trial and a monthly or yearly subscription that starts out at about $500 a year.

And then the next bucket is automated scans and reporting. And this offer centers around the ability to scan a website. And so the- there will be customizable reports based on those scan results. And you can also track progress. And then there will be maintenance and monitoring with alerts available. No manual service work is offered so if you read carefully through you will find that there are no manual audits.

However, if you request one you may be able to get one through from the seller sourcing out work to a partner. But typically nothing is done in house. The seller that you are dealing with will not be doing any manual work.

And then there are nonaccessibility upsells like SEO and it was very difficult to find an updated price for 2023. I couldn’t find any new information on pricing from the sellers in this category. But generally, you’re looking at a yearly subscription and I think it will start out at around $2,500 to $7,500 for an entry-level plan.

And then there are mid-tier agency audits. And so with this you have a small business agency type of organization, the primary offering is going to be a manual audit the audit is going to be available ala carte and consultation will also be available. And you can expect a one-time fee between $4,000-$12,000 for a manual audit.

The next category is user testing services. So this can be a small business agency type of organization. It may also be a nonprofit, the primary offer is user testing services from professionals with disabilities.

User testing will be available ala carte, and then there will also be support and the fee can- it will it’s going to vary based on your request. Typically to start you’re looking at $1,500 and it can range on up to $15,000. It really just depends on what you’re asking for.

And then last I have an enterprise-level packages and this is a larger company. They will have a sales team. They will primarily deal with large entities. And so the feature cell here will be a manual audit with a suite of additional products and services in a package.

So it may also be a scan, maybe reporting, training, consultation, etc. And then this is typically going to consist of a yearly subscription contract and if you are in- usually you’re going to start at between $15,000 to $40,000. But it really does depend on what you’re asking for.

And then the next slide covers review websites and I think this makes it even- this can make it even more difficult to understand exactly what you’re getting from the different sellers, particularly overlay vendors. So let’s go through the websites I have listed on the slide.

AccessibilityChecker.org, WhoisAccessible.com, G2.com, Capterra.com. Ddiy.co, GetApp.com, Trustpilot.com, WebsitePlanet.com, SoftwareAdvice.com, BestWebsiteAccessibility.com, CrozDesk.com, HostdAdvice.com and WPLift.com.

So what’s important to remember about review websites is these are going to be highly favorable to overlay widgets, you will typically see some very strong recommendations to buy. And this may be because some of them are affiliate websites designed to generate commissions on overlay widget sales, so they’ll get- they might get 15% to 30% of the sale when you refer a customer.

And then some of these sites may be outright created by overlay widget vendors to help sell their own product- to help sell and promote their own product. And if not, there may be also others that are they’re usually co-opted by overly widget vendors.

And when I say co-opted it may be that there’s some form of payment, whether it’s direct or indirect, to promote their widget. So sometimes on these review sites, you will see some overlay widgets that are- they have a more of a negative review. And that’s because they’re trying to sway you to one overlay widget vendor.

And so, of course, many are paid by overlay widget vendors, and then there can also be- there’s typically if there’s a crowd involved, where the reviews are coming from different purported to be coming from different people, fake reviews will be generated. And those reviews are- it’s usually very obvious that they’re coming from overlay widget vendors.

And on this slide, I’ve got a continuation into testimonials. So similar to reviews testimonials are often co-opted by the overlay vendors. They’re usually influenced by the vendors, the people giving the testimonials usually directly or indirectly receive some sort of payment or compensation from the overlay vendors.

And when I’m talking about reviews and testimonials and things of this sort, it’s usually not anybody. We rarely see this from any of the other sellers in this market, other than overlay vendors. So with testimonials, try to find any- if you’re looking through them, try to find any with no affiliation, no overly promotional aspect to them.

Promoted customer testimonials are usually worthless because the customers themselves aren’t the end users. And the customers are satisfied so long as they haven’t been targeted in litigation. That doesn’t mean that the overlay widget is actually effective. It just- it can simply be that the customer hasn’t been targeted in litigation yet.

And one last bullet point on this slide is that the marketing testimonials and promotions are especially bad. Last night I came across a video where the marketer was referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and he kept calling it “adda” instead of ADA.

And that’s just- that’s really, that type of that level of ignorance is typical when you see the marketers promoting overlay widgets and the marketers despite having knowledge of or being informed that the overlays are not actually making a website accessible.

They don’t care, they’re only interested in the commissions and they don’t care at what expense it comes to their reputation or even their ethics. And so we’ve seen especially bad promotions coming from the marketing side of that and that is why I continually say that you want to stay away from any sellers that are also in the marketing space. It doesn’t mean that necessarily a marketer can’t be also someone who is genuinely promoting best accessibility practices, but that’s usually not the case.

So how can you find good information on website accessibility providers? I think Facebook groups are the best path and especially private groups where you have to be a part of the community to be admitted or you have to meet some specific requirements, Facebook groups will have good organic discussion.

And then Reddit threads can also be similar in that regard, but Reddit threads. I’ve also seen them where they’ve been co-opted by overlay vendors. But again, you really should just be ignoring overlays at this point altogether.

YouTube channels that are reputable, that are established. Those can be good sources, although again some YouTube channels, some marketers have been paid or compensated by overlay vendors. Tweets can be good, if you search Twitter, sometimes you will find some helpful tweets.

OverlayFactsSheet.com, and OverlayFalseClaims.com. Those two websites will tell you all you need to know about overlays. Also, Adrian Rosselli is an accessibility expert and he’s posted several good blog posts on mostly overlays but sometimes you can find information about other sellers in the space.

And then if you search Google for Seller + Lawsuits or Seller + Complaints, sometimes you can find good information available through Google. The next two slides involve my advice to buyers. And let’s start off with never buy an automated “solution” to make your website accessible but also never buy from these vendors.

So ironically, some of the accessibility overlay vendors recognizing the severe deficiency and their product and their fundamental flaws, have started offering manual website accessibility services. And the- I wouldn’t buy the services ever because there’s just no reputation here. There’s no credibility at this point. So I say never buy from overlay vendors. Also, you want to avoid agencies that do other stuff.

For example, SEO. And again, it’s not because they can’t offer good accessibility, two, they can’t offer good accessibility services, but it’s just usually not the case.
Premium scans are mostly unnecessary.

There can be limited scenarios where premium scans do offer value, but usually, they are of marginal benefit at best. And that’s mainly because you can get it- you can get a scan at one-page scan for free, and there’s only so much you can do with a scan, right?

So even if I have 100 pages scanned of my website, what action can I take from that practically? So the one-page scan usually suffices. With audits the seller should be able to tell you- they should volunteer to you the scope of the audit. If they don’t that’s a major red flag so the sellers should be setting out the parameters of the audit.

What page layouts are included, what URLs are included, what screens are included, what version of WCAG the audit will be conducted under, the environments used, etc. So the scope of the environment shouldn’t be volunteered by the seller.

If it’s not that is a major red flag. Also with remediation, it’s a significant and separate cost. So, audits don’t actually do anything by themselves. You do need remediation to actually make progress with accessibility.

And most not all but most accessibility sellers do not offer remediation. So keep that in mind. And also keep in mind that services vary in quality. So just because you have a price quote on an audit from two different sellers doesn’t mean you would get back an audit of similar quality.

One audit may be of an A-minus grade, and then the other audit could easily be a D-grade. And that really comes down to researching and understanding and having a feel for the reputation of the provider. So know that.

Of course, price is always a factor, but know that it shouldn’t be the determining factor because the quality of service you receive can vary significantly.
And then continuing on if the offering is hazy or it isn’t clear, just pass on it if you can’t discern exactly what you will be receiving, or if the details aren’t said.

Or if you’re still not sure what exactly you’re getting exchanged. In exchange for your money. Just pass it up. Because that’s setting a bad precedent for your experience. Also, if you’re concerned about indemnification, I would read the fine print so that you can find out that even sellers that are featuring indemnification or they offer indemnification, you won’t actually be indemnified. If you were to be sued.

If you are it will be of a very small amount you might get you know, be very prorated amount against how much you pay for or how much you pay. So the point here is that indemnification is very difficult to offer as a seller both legally and contractually.

And because of that it’s there’s usually a cap on indemnification, and that cap is very low, and it’s usually not even worth being concerned about. Also, I wouldn’t be overly concerned with WCAG 2.2 or any new laws or regulations. These two points will be introduced by some sellers, but it’s not something to be overly concerned with. We already know generally what you need to do for accessibility.

We know- we generally know what is needed to prevent litigation and then when it comes to WCAG 2.2. It’s great if you can make your website as accessible as possible. But what you should also know is that even a 2.0 audit is going to take your team some time to work through.

So there are just so many accessibility issues. Many teams can’t have difficulty working through audits that are of previous versions of WCAG so 2.2 just isn’t my primary concern. It’s great. If you get back to audit you can know the issues that are there that 2.2 would bring about but I wouldn’t. That wouldn’t be my focus. I would focus in on training. Accessibility shouldn’t be an ongoing problem.

There shouldn’t be continual fixes that you need to address. Your team should be working in accessibility as a part of the process. So training is imperative to that. So look for training and look to get out of the subscription model for accessibility unless you truly need a subscription for it.

And that might be the case if you have a large volume of digital assets or if you- it’s just more efficient to allocate that to a third party than it is to create accessibility in house. But you’d likely still want to have accessibility as a part of your process in some capacity.

And then the last bullet point I have is that certification documentation only counts if the organization is reputable. If you weren’t getting your documentation from some of the agencies, the less reputable agencies are definitely from overlay vendors. It doesn’t mean anything and it won’t carry any weight.

The main problem in the market is that products and services aren’t aligned with the primary customer objective, which is to prevent litigation.

Now, the products and services, of course, they talk about ADA compliance and stopping lawsuits. But you have to ask yourself, do they really? Are they really aligned with that? And so that’s- that’s been a looming problem. That’s been an ongoing problem for years.

And of course, manual services are always needed. But just because the manual services offered doesn’t mean it will prevent litigation. So it’s important not to make that false equivalency. Just because you get a manual audit. It doesn’t mean that manual audit will prevent litigation it just means that you have a manual audit, and the quality of that manual audit may vary and your ability to implement the recommendations on the audit may vary. So keep that in mind.

An audit can be extremely helpful in making your website WCAG conformant it’s necessary for it you have to have an audit to make your website WCAG conformant. But audits alone do nothing to prevent litigation.

This misalignment in the market led to me creating the ADA Compliance Course and I created the ADA Compliance Course as an SOP so as step-by-step instructions for website owners to give to their team, and the course is specifically designed to prevent litigation through genuine accessibility.

But the accessibility is only focused in on the issues that are being claimed by plaintiffs’ lawyers in litigation. So your team is manually going through your website and they’re finding issues and they’re fixing them.

But they’re- but the focus is on preventing litigation and not trying to be fully WCAG conformant you can worry about that after you go through the course. But the course is designed to prevent litigation by taking care of those accessibility issues that are most urgent and the reason they are urgent is because plaintiffs’ lawyers are looking for them.

So this course trains your team on website accessibility. Why while they simultaneously take action, and they find so they’re auditing and they fix so they’re remediating accessibility issues, and you can find out more information on the course at adacompliance.net.

So we’re towards the end of the presentation, but I wanted to talk about the importance of training.

One, with training your team becomes more knowledgeable on accessibility and because of that they can incorporate accessibility into your processes. And that means less accessibility issues are going to be introduced so when you add a new section to your website, or content is uploaded, the content will be uploaded in an accessible manner the coding will be done in an accessible manner.

And this means that any accessibility issues that do arise or are still introduced are easier they’re going to be quicker and easier to fix. And you will also become less reliant upon third party providers, which is extremely important.

When you’re sourcing out work to third party providers. It’s very expensive and costly, and it’s inefficient. It’s mostly inefficient. So because of this- because your team has been trained, it’s going to definitely improve the experience for all users.

And then two more resources from me. One is my free WCAG materials. There’s a free WCAG guide and checklists. These are extremely helpful. You can find these at accessible.org/wcag. These are 100% free to download, no subscription is required. And also my book The ADA Book will help you learn the legal landscape and the best practices for ADA compliance.

If you have any questions or want to leave a comment, definitely comment below. I will attempt to answer questions that are in the comment section and share your experience. Of course, if you’d like to contact me directly, you can email me at info@adacompliance.net.

You can also message me at LinkedIn and my LinkedIn URL is linkedin.com/in/krisrivenburgh and my name is KRIS RIVENBURGH and you can also get more of the social media postings from The ADA Book.

There’s an account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok. And the accounts are all the same. It’s @theadabook. And for the final slide, I want to emphasize progress, not perfection