Below are the reasons website accessibility audits cost multiple thousands of dollars.
High Specialized Skill
The technical knowledge and experience necessary to perform a manual audit is a rare skill set in the marketplace. It takes a considerable amount of time and energy to gain this knowledge and experience. And not only is knowledge of accessibility needed, foundational development, design, and content knowledge is also necessary.
This combination of skills is quite valuable and thus technical accessibility experts command higher rates which contributes to the higher cost of producing an audit.
Significant Manual Work
The biggest cost involved in manual audits is the sheer amount of work it takes to complete an audit. Most websites require 25+ hours of one or more technical experts checking and testing your website in different environment combinations. Think of environment combinations being Windows desktop and Chrome browser or Mac OS with Safari browser and VoiceOver screen reader.
More comprehensive audits will include both mobile and desktop environments.
The expert will go through each page within scope and check for accessibility issues against WCAG 2.1 AA. Conformance Level AA of version 2.1 consists of 50 success criteria or requirements for accessibility which vary in complexity so there are many things that an expert will look for during the audit. Some accessibility considerations take only a few seconds and others are more involved and require inspection of the code.
For every issue, most audits include the issue itself, associated WCAG success criterion, the URL, the location of the issue, environment the issue was found in, and a recommendation to fix the issue.
And, although all audits require manual inspection, the expert will leverage an automated scan to find issues and reduce incidence of error.
The expert will assess all of the pages and/or screens included in the audit scope. This typically amounts to 10-20 pages. Of course, the number of pages in scope affects the cost.
For websites that are more complex (i.e., there are more interactive components and varying types of components) and/or have a larger number of accessibility issues, the amount of time needed to perform the audit increases and thus these two factors also increase the cost.
An audit, by its very nature, is a formal process that results in an official report after an evaluation or inspection has taken place.
Because of this, there’s an inherent cost just in the formality involved from any organization that provides an audit service. Stated another way, it costs money just to 1) have an audit performed the right way and 2) produce the resulting report documentation in a complete and official manner.
To illustrate this point, contrast hiring a freelancer to write an article for your blog. The freelancer can take the instructions and send you a Word document back and the purpose of the engagement can easily be fulfilled.
Because the audit itself requires a thorough and rigorous process and the resulting documentation must be meticulously produced and done so in a finalized, official manner, there is added cost.
In short, manual audits require the time and mental energy of a technical accessibility expert to complete. They cannot be scaled beyond the efficiency implementations already put into place and thus constitute a true professional service and cost a significant premium.