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Digital Accessibility and Scalability Costs

Kimberly Springs

Jeff Rodgers

October 15 7 min read

There are 252,000 websites created every day. With that amount of new content flooding the internet, businesses are shifting faster towards scalability, not just in costs but in deferring accessibility liabilities too.

Considering that the majority of existing websites were built without accessibility in mind and why 97% of the internet is inaccessible – is a systemic problem. Our team has consulted with many businesses seeking accessibility and have heard most questions and objections. The main issues comes down to two major factors: cost and a confusing legal landscape forever changing at the state levels. These two objections are preventing digital accessibility from being widely embraced.

Essentially, digital accessibility is the ability to equally access different environments (browsers, operating system, PC, mobile phone, tablet, TV, etc.) seamlessly for all users. 

Scalable Expenses (for Accessibility)

Converting a portion of fixed costs to scalable expenses as you start to either design or redesign the digital asset can improve cash flow. Scalability in business means a business or other entity’s capacity to grow and meet demands and having a digitally accessible site has the capacity to grow – more efficiently as well as meet changing demands.

In prior blogs we have noted that adding digital accessibility to a business’s agenda will work into profitability down the line. Starting out with accessibility in mind or remediating assets helps increase the chance of that business standing out against competition with better SEO rankings, and an easier to use site. Better user experience (UX) and user journey experiences increase the likelihood for repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising. That means a website and mobile app counterparts are clearly more efficient and will allow optimal growth by being accessible.

Why is Scalability Important?

Scalability will help your company retain its brand quality throughout remediation process or rebuild without sacrificing efficiency or quality of your customer service and internal operations. So, figuring in the cost of accessibility can factor in those costs. Imagine the company that adopts several digital accessibility initiatives and you’re likely to find a series of advanced processes that fosters innovation across their entire digital ecosystem.

While there are financial benefits, digital accessibility transformation is about progress, long-term viability and meeting the needs of the end-user and collaboration within the ecosystem — vendors, suppliers, customers, internal departments, and alternate domains. This is a cost that will pay off down the line.

Where to Start?

It’s not as important where you start your digital accessibility transformation as much as that you get started. Having a tight scope around what you’re targeting, gaining success there and then expand over time. The best is the get an accessibility audit to see where your digital assets are as far as accessibility health.

Devoting Resources to Digital Accessibility

Devoting resources to do the analysis could be worth it. To get the most out of a scalable cost program, you have to analyze your costs carefully, because they’re going to differ widely based on where you go. You can’t use a one-size-fits-all strategy and overlays using simple coding with not address the hefty issues without hands-on remediation. It’s expensive to cover fixed costs as digital assets sit idle, so in converting those to scalable costs by replacing them with a reimbursement program, you can save money and operate more flexibly as an organization.

IRS Tax Credit – Up to $5000

Another great way to help with the scalability and defer costs is to see if your business qualifies for a tax credit of up to $5,000 to offset what you spend on making your website ADA compliant.

You can read more about the detailed rules from IRS Form 8826, here are the basics. The IRS will allow small businesses to claim a credit of up to $5,000 each year to offset 50% of your accessibility-related expenses. This includes (but is not necessarily limited to):

• Captioning videos.

• Producing transcripts of recorded audio.

• Providing sign language interpretation for audio materials (including videos that contain spoken text.)

• Conversion of PDFs (or any other text) materials to accessible formats.

• Removal of barriers (including digital ones) that prevent your business from being accessible.

• Consulting services to accomplish any of the above.

With the help of that tax credit, what may have previously seemed unaffordable may make a lot more sense for you now.

Accessibility Is the Right Thing to Do

When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990, the world wide web was in its infancy. Since then, the web has become tightly integrated into day-to-day life. Now, most Americans rely on the web for shopping, communication, and basic information. Websites have truly become the public accommodations that are regulated by the ADA.

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires “places of public accommodation,” which includes businesses “open to the public,” to make their products and services accessible to people with disabilities. That ADA law was enacted in 1990 while the world-wide-web was in its infancy. Technical standards for digital accessibility were not even considered then, leaving it up to courts and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to interpret the requirements on a case-by-case basis.

Earlier this year 2022, the DOJ issued guidance on web accessibility, reminding businesses to make their sites accessible to people with disabilities. Shortly after publishing the guidance, the DOJ added more technical web accessibility standards to Title II of the ADA. These standards are requiring states and local governments to make all their online and physical services, activities, programs, and technology used even by vendors to be accessible to people with disabilities. This is a 508 compliance and VPAT requirement(s) for businesses working with, intending on applying as a contractor for/with the US government, or are receiving funds from the federal government.

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Representative John Sarbanes introduced a bill for The Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act. The proposed legislation would make clear and enforceable standards while clarifying language in the bill that Title III of the ADA. Title III of the ADA applies to digital-only businesses (e.g., online stores, streaming services, etc.) and would require the DOJ to provide technical standards for accessibility across different technologies. This new law will help in the collaboration from the accessibility experts, the disability community, technology providers, and federal agencies for periodic reviews and recommendations on enforcing the regulations while keeping pace with new, emerging technologies.

When building a new website, it is critical that all stakeholders and team members treat accessibility as a quality metric that must be met in order for the website to launch. This process includes everyone from designers to developers to content creators and editors. For existing websites, the next step is to undertake a thorough audit of your site to determine the areas where it falls short of accessibility and to make the appropriate remediations. By prioritizing accessibility, you can save yourself from potential legal trouble later down the road. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.

The best strategy for reducing your risk is to work with qualified accessibility experts to review your site and help you understand where your site is and any possible accessibility violations and how best to address these issues. Remember, you can scale and defer costs – it is only a matter of perspective.