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June 12, 2019

Should I Make my Website ADA Compliant?

Author: Valerie Baker

Weighing the Costs of ADA Website Compliance & Potential ADA Website Compliance Lawsuits

ADA website compliance is a relatively new concept to the web industry. Most who manage government organization’s websites are extremely familiar with this practice as they are required by law to make their websites ADA compliant. But what about private businesses?

We’ve been keeping our eye on ADA compliance for quite some time and we’ve noticed an explosion of lawsuits related to ADA website compliance. Companies like Winn-Dixie, Beyoncé, and local footwear companies have received lawsuits for not meeting ADA compliance standards.

There is a lack of resources for explaining ADA compliance to business owners. If you search for “ADA website compliance,” you’re going to be met with a host of articles about WCAG, the World Wide Web Consortium, and other technical terms that your standard business owner just won’t understand.

We hope that as an agency, we can provide some information to fill those gaps and really help people understand both why their websites should be ADA compliant and how much ADA website compliance will cost.

What is ADA Website Compliance?

ADA website compliance consists of a set of guidelines websites should meet in order to be accessible to ALL. This means that someone who is visually impaired can access your website using special tools or software. It could also mean that someone who can’t use a standard mouse and keyboard has access to navigate to other pages.

You’re probably most familiar with ADA compliance as it relates to physical locations: wheelchair ramps, handicapped parking, etc. These are all a part of our daily life in the public – and something that will soon become standard across the web as well.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The World Wide Web Consortium (or W3C) developed a list of guidelines for website owners and website developers to work with in order to make websites more accessible. These can include adding things like alt tags to images so screen readers can read them, making color contrasts behave a certain way so that those who are color blind or partially color blind can see them, and more.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are released in phases and are likely going to continue doing so as time goes on. For example, the current accepted version (by the courts) is WCAG 2.0. And on top of version 2.0, there are levels of accessibility:

  • A = below acceptable
  • AA = standard (where you want to be)
  • AAA = exceptional

WCAG 2.1 is also currently out, but the accepted version at this time is WCAG 2.0 AA.

How is ADA Compliance Measured?

ADA website compliance currently isn’t measured by a central place or entity. There are several plugins and tools out there to “measure” website compliance, but they are not approved by any sort of legal organization or government.

I recently had a prospect tell me that their current web company said they were at “73% compliance.” As I learn more and more about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and ADA website compliance, I realize that this can’t really be measured by a percentage grade. As a business owner, it’s crucial for you to work with a company that not only understands the guidelines but knows how to implement them.

How Much Does ADA Website Compliance Cost?

This is the trickiest question to answer. If a web company can tell you that they can make your website compliant for X amount of dollars without even looking at the back-end of your website, I’d advise that you run in the opposite direction. As a business owner, you are not just risking a website – you are risking the threat of potential litigation and hefty legal fines. And it’s important your website company gets it right the first time.

ADA compliance costs, much like any large website update, is hard to define upfront without knowing more information about the website. How many pages are there? Is the website custom or based on a template? What kind of functionality does that website have? These are just a few questions that we would ask anyone approaching us in need of ADA website compliance services.

Our audits typically start around $1,500 – and that does not include the work to make the website compliant. Once we receive all necessary logins, we review the back-end of the website and check it against the current guidelines (WCAG 2.0 AA). From there, we define the amount of work that needs to be done in both hours and costs.

A website with around 20-30 pages could cost anywhere from $5,000 – $10,000 to audit and complete work for, but again, that all depends on the size of the website and how it was built. No two web companies or web developers will make a website the same, so it will vary from company to company. Think of how Ford would build a car vs. Volkswagen – two different manufacturers might make cars, but they’ll look completely different once you lift the hood. It’s the same for websites.

All in all, if your website does not meet any compliance standards whatsoever, you could look at spending an additional $10,000 to audit and complete updates on your website. Once initial compliance has been met, you must also maintain that through regular auditing and updates. This could cost anywhere from $1,000 – $1,500 per quarter or year.

How Much Does an ADA Lawsuit Cost?

Like the above question, this one is harder to answer. There have been several lawsuits out there. Most of what we’ve seen has settled out of court, but even if you are targeted with a lawsuit and settle out of court, you should still investigate making your website compliant.

I recently received a copy of a letter that was received by a local company (here in Southwest Florida). The letter stated that the website does not meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards and that this law firm would be willing to settle out of court to the tune of $50,000. Keep in mind – this is a LOCAL, SMALL BUSINESS that will either need to pay $50,000 to settle or go to court (which could incur legal fees of the same scale).

So, when you compare the cost to create an ADA compliant website vs. lawsuit/legal fees, it’s clear that making your website ADA compliant is a wise investment. Not only will you avoid the risk of potential litigation, but you will be able to give the nearly 1 in 5 Americans with disabilities access to your website.

ADA Website Compliance Services

As mentioned above, when you’re considering making your website ADA compliant, it’s crucial that you work with a company that knows the guidelines, understands the implications of them if they are not met, and how to properly maintain your website.

Other companies may install a plugin and state your website is compliant, but that is false. To meet WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines, you’ll need to work with a company that really knows this and isn’t going to waste your time and risk your business by installing a tool or plugin on your website.

To learn more about ADA website compliance services from the skilled team at Atilus, contact us online today or calling (239) 362-1271.

Valerie Baker

Valerie is the Senior Account Manager & Project Manager here at Atilus.

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