To move between menu items on the upper navigation menu, use the keys tab or Left and Right Arrow. To move to the lower submenu items of the current upper menu, use the space bar followed by the left or right Arrow key.

Demystifying the Price Tag: The True Costs of a Website Accessibility Audit

Kimberly Springs

Jeff Rodgers

June 29 14 min read

Businesses ready to make accessibility a priority often encounter a barrier of their own, determining the cost of a website accessibility audit and if the price of the audit is worth the investment. Many companies want to embrace website accessibility to ensure equal opportunities and inclusivity for their users. However, the true cost of a web accessibility audit can vary widely based on a variety of factors. Not to mention that not all accessibility audits are the same.

Let’s demystify the costs of a website accessibility audit by exploring what impacts the price and what you should be looking for.

What is a website accessibility audit?

First, a website accessibility audit comprehensively evaluates a website’s features and compliance with accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). It thoroughly examines various aspects of the website, including its design, structure, content, and functionality.

The main goal of an accessibility audit is to identify barriers and issues that may hinder users with disabilities from accessing and using the website effectively.

When is the right time to do a web audit?

Ideally, an accessibility audit should be conducted during the early stages of website development. This ensures that accessibility is integrated from the start. However, it is never too late to conduct an audit.

Prioritizing accessibility for your existing website and conducting an audit is crucial. Building an accessible website from the beginning is always more cost-effective. If you already have a website, plan on additional costs to remediate the issues found during the audit.

Accessibility is also not a one-and-done project. Ongoing, regular audits are necessary to ensure your website remains accessible. Not only as it evolves and grows but because web browsers and assistive technology also change over time.

Prioritizing accessibility and security monitoring is one way to help avoid accessibility issues and keep your annual audit costs down.

The process of conducting a website accessibility audit

Performing a website accessibility audit typically follows a systematic approach. It involves manual testing and automated tools to evaluate different aspects of the website’s accessibility. The audit process includes the following:

  1. Preparation: This involves gathering information about the website, its target audience, and any existing accessibility guidelines or requirements.
  2. Evaluation: The website is evaluated for compliance with accessibility standards, such as WCAG or Section 508. Manual testing is performed to identify accessibility barriers, such as missing alternative text for images or improperly labeled form fields.
  3. Reporting: The audit findings are documented in a detailed report, which should include a summary of the accessibility issues identified, their severity, and possibly recommendations for remediation.

How long does the audit process take?

How long an accessibility audit takes can vary depending on the size and complexity of the website. A small website with a few pages may take a few days to audit, while a large e-commerce website with hundreds of pages may take several weeks or months.

The audit process is most affected by the time it takes to evaluate manually. Web pages with multiple issues require more time for examiners to review due to the presence of obstacles.

For a reliable audit, it’s essential to have manual evaluations conducted by persons who regularly use assistive technology. This is the ultimate litmus test to ensure your website is accessible. The more manual testing done, the more reliable the results are!

Tools and technologies used in accessibility audits

Accessibility audits utilize a combination of manual testing and automated tools to evaluate the accessibility of a website. Manual testing involves using assistive technologies, such as screen readers or keyboard navigation, to simulate the experience of users with disabilities.

Automated tools, on the other hand, scan the website for accessibility issues, such as missing alternative text or improper heading structure. Some commonly used tools for accessibility audits include:

  • Screen readers: These software programs allow visually impaired users to hear and interact with elements on a web page.
  • Color contrast analyzers: These tools help evaluate the contrast between text and background colors to ensure readability for users with visual impairments.
  • Accessibility validators: These tools scan the website’s code and content to identify accessibility issues and provide suggestions for improvement.
  • Specialized tools: Various devices, including keyboards, controllers, touch tools, keypads, and braille devices, aid in understanding how users engage with page content.

Factors that affect the cost of a website accessibility audit

The cost of a website accessibility audit can vary depending on several factors. Some of the key factors that influence the cost include:

  • Size and complexity of the website: The larger and more complex the website, the more time and effort it takes to conduct a thorough accessibility audit.
  • Level of compliance required: Different organizations may have different accessibility requirements based on industry standards or legal obligations. The level of compliance needed can impact the scope and cost of the audit.
  • The extent of manual testing: Manual testing is essential to a comprehensive accessibility audit. The more extensive the manual testing required, the higher the audit cost.
  • Expertise and experience of the auditor: The qualifications and expertise of the accessibility auditor can influence the cost. Highly experienced auditors with specialized knowledge may charge higher fees.
  • Reporting and documentation requirements: The detail and complexity required in the audit report can also impact the cost. More extensive reporting and documentation may require additional time and resources.

Common accessibility issues and their impact on the cost

Accessibility issues can vary in severity and complexity, and their impact on the cost of an accessibility audit depends on several factors. Some common accessibility issues and their potential impact on price include:

  • Missing alternative text for images: Images without alternative text make it difficult for visually impaired users to understand the content. This issue can be relatively easy to identify and fix, resulting in minimal impact on cost.
  • Improper heading structure: Headings provide structure and organization to web content. If headings are improperly used or structured, it can impact the navigation and comprehension of users with disabilities. This issue may require extensive manual testing and remediation, potentially increasing the audit cost.
  • Inaccessible forms: Forms that are not properly labeled or do not have appropriate error messages can be challenging for users with disabilities to complete. Identifying and fixing these issues may require significant manual testing and remediation, leading to increased costs.
  • Complex navigation or menus: Websites with complex navigation or menus can pose challenges for users with disabilities, especially those using assistive technologies. Evaluating and addressing these issues may require additional time and expertise, resulting in higher audit costs.

The role of remediation in the audit process

The purpose of a website accessibility audit is not only to identify accessibility issues but also to provide recommendations for remediation. To be considered accessible, a website needs to fix all accessibility issues and barriers.

The cost of remediation can vary depending on the scope and complexity of the issues identified during the audit. When conducting audits, it is important to note that remediation services are usually not included. Therefore, allocating sufficient resources for remediation is essential to guarantee that the website is completely accessible.

Case studies: Real-world examples of the cost of web accessibility audits

To better understand the cost of website accessibility audits, let’s explore a couple of real-world case studies:

  • Case Study 1: Small Business Website: A small business with a simple website consisting of approximately ten pages decided to hire an accessibility specialist organization to conduct an audit. The audit took about two weeks to complete, costing around $5,500. The audit report identified minor accessibility issues, such as missing alternative text and improper heading structure. The business implemented the recommended remediation measures, resulting in minimal additional costs.
  • Case Study 2: E-commerce Website: An e-commerce website with hundreds of product pages and complex navigation hires the same accessibility company to conduct an audit. This audit takes several weeks and involves extensive manual testing and analysis. The cost of the audit is approximately $25,000. The audit report identifies various accessibility issues, including inaccessible forms and complex menus. The website owner decides to utilize the same accessibility company to handle the remediation service, which incurs additional costs.

These case studies demonstrate the variability in the cost of accessibility audits based on the size and complexity of the website and the level of remediation required.

Understanding the ADA and its Impact on website accessibility audits

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that aims to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities. It covers both physical spaces and digital platforms, including websites. While the ADA does not mention website accessibility, courts have interpreted the law to include it.

Ensuring ADA compliance is crucial, and website accessibility audits are essential for achieving it. By conducting these audits, businesses, and organizations can identify accessibility barriers and take necessary measures to address them, thus avoiding legal consequences such as lawsuits and financial penalties for non-compliance.

Common misconceptions about the cost of ADA compliance

Several misconceptions surround the cost of ADA compliance and website accessibility audits. Let’s address some of these misconceptions:

  • Misconception 1: ADA compliance is too expensive: While it is true that website accessibility audits and remediation can incur costs, the benefits far outweigh the expenses. Making investments in accessibility not only guarantees compliance with legal regulations, enhances the user experience, broadens the customer base, and boosts the reputation of the business or organization.
  • Misconception 2: Accessibility overlays are a cost-effective solution: Automated accessibility overlays are advertised as quick solutions to make websites accessible. However, they do not provide a complete and reliable accessibility solution. While they may fix some minor issues, they cannot replace the in-depth analysis offered by a professional accessibility audit.
  • Misconception 3: Our web developers can handle it: Even the most experienced web developers struggle to repair accessibility issues. This is because most WCAG criteria can be met in multiple ways, and developers often lack the knowledge and skills to use assistive technology to test their remediation.

Why accessibility overlays are not an option

Accessibility overlays have gained popularity as a seemingly quick and inexpensive solution for website accessibility. These overlays claim to provide instant accessibility fixes by adding a few lines of code to the website. However, there are several reasons why accessibility overlays are not a viable option for achieving and maintaining website accessibility:

  • Superficial fixes: Accessibility overlays provide superficial fixes that do not address the root causes of accessibility barriers. They often add incorrect alternative text to images and fail to handle more complex issues, such as proper heading structure or keyboard navigation.
  • Reliance on automation: Accessibility overlays rely heavily on automated tools and algorithms to detect and fix accessibility issues. However, automated tools cannot replace the human expertise and judgment required for a thorough accessibility evaluation.
  • Lack of customization: Accessibility overlays offer a one-size-fits-all approach, which may not meet the specific accessibility needs of individual websites or target audiences. Customization is essential to ensure that accessibility measures are tailored to the unique requirements of each website.
  • Lack of sustainability: Accessibility overlays provide temporary fixes that may become outdated or ineffective as the website evolves and changes. Regular audits and ongoing remediation efforts are necessary to ensure sustained accessibility.

Benefits of a professional audit

Professional accessibility audits offer several advantages that outweigh the additional cost:

  • Expertise and experience: Professional auditors have specialized knowledge and experience evaluating website accessibility. They are trained to identify complex accessibility issues and provide accurate and detailed recommendations for remediation.
  • Thorough evaluation: Professional audits involve a combination of manual testing and automated tools, resulting in a comprehensive review of website accessibility. DIY audits may overlook important accessibility barriers that can only be identified through expert analysis.
  • Legal compliance: Professional audits ensure compliance with accessibility standards such as WCAG and legal obligations such as the ADA. By investing in a professional audit, businesses and organizations can mitigate the risk of legal consequences and financial penalties.
  • Long-term cost savings: While professional audits may have a higher upfront cost, they provide long-term benefits and cost savings. By addressing accessibility issues early on, businesses can avoid costly legal disputes and improve the user experience, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Choosing the right accessibility audit service provider

Choosing the right accessibility audit service provider is crucial to ensure a thorough and accurate evaluation of website accessibility. When selecting a service provider, consider the following factors:

  • Experience and expertise: Look for a service provider with a proven track record in conducting accessibility audits. Check their qualifications, certifications, and experience in the field.
  • Methodology and approach: Inquire about the methods and process the service provider uses. A comprehensive audit should include manual testing and automated tools to evaluate different aspects of website accessibility.
  • Reporting and documentation: Assess the level of detail and comprehensiveness provided in the audit report. The report should identify accessibility issues, their severity, and recommendations for remediation.
  • Post-audit support: Inquire about the post-audit support provided by the service provider. Accessibility is an ongoing process; continuous support and guidance are essential for maintaining and improving website accessibility.
  • Remediation assistance: Not all providers offer this, but it can be a must-have for some. If you plan on having your in-house team handle the remediation, they may need experts to consult with. If you need to outsource the remediation, having the team that did the audit handle the remediation can help lower the costs.

The benefits of investing in website accessibility

Investing in website accessibility offers numerous advantages for businesses and organizations:

  • Legal compliance: Ensuring website accessibility helps companies to comply with disability rights laws and regulations like the ADA and 508. Compliance reduces the risk of legal consequences and demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and equal access.
  • Expanded customer base: By making your website accessible, you open it to a wider audience, including people with disabilities. This can lead to increased traffic, engagement, and potential customers.
  • Improved user experience: An accessible website provides a better user experience for all users, regardless of their abilities. A well-designed and user-friendly website enhances navigation, readability, and overall satisfaction.
  • Positive brand reputation: Prioritizing accessibility sends a strong message about your organization’s values and commitment to inclusivity. It enhances your brand reputation and fosters trust and loyalty among customers and stakeholders.
  • SEO benefits: Accessibility features such as alternative descriptive text for images and properly structured headings can improve search engine optimization (SEO), resulting in higher visibility and ranking on search engine results pages.

The Accessibility Ops model

While a one-time accessibility audit is crucial to ensuring website accessibility, it may not be the best solution for everyone. For many, an accessibility operations model offers a more comprehensive, cost-effective, and sustainable approach to accessibility, especially for companies looking to identify and address accessibility issues immediately.

The accessibility ops model offers a more agile approach to handling accessibility. It integrates accessibility into the entire website development and maintenance process rather than treating it as a one-time project.

A reputable accessibility operations model should include the following:

  • Continuous monitoring and evaluation: Regular monitoring and evaluation of website accessibility ensure that any new barriers or issues are identified and addressed promptly.
  • Ongoing training and education: Providing training and education to website developers, designers, and content creators helps build their awareness and skills in creating accessible web content.
  • Collaborative (agile) approach: Involving all stakeholders, including developers, designers, content creators, and accessibility experts, in the accessibility process ensures a comprehensive and inclusive approach.
  • Periodic audits and assessments: Conducting regular audits and assessments helps evaluate the effectiveness of accessibility measures and identify areas for improvement.
  • Remediation assistance: Accessibility issues are not always easy to fix. Direct-to-expert access to a team of experts makes the remediation process quicker and more efficient.
  • Immediate impact: Without the need to wait for an entire audit to be completed, your company can begin addressing accessibility issues right away.

Incorporating an accessibility operations model can be a great way for businesses and organizations to make accessibility a core part of their operations. This can help ensure that accessibility is maintained over time and the risk of barriers is minimized, making it easier for everyone to access the needed services.