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This is the Accessible.org podcast. My name is Kris Rivenburgh.
Today we’re going to talk about website accessibility audits.
If you don’t know the difference between website accessibility and ADA compliance, think of accessibility as the technical side. It’s where we get into WCAG 2.0 AA and start looking at the technical aspects of how to make your website accessible.
And then ADA compliance is the legal side, it’s the legal standard that’s hazy and roaming. And we’re not sure because there actually isn’t a law for private entities in the U.S. – we just know that the current legal landscape is you better make your website accessible and so we look to WCAG 2.0 AA as our technical reference.
So that’s the difference between those to.
And what we do with audits is we set our website up to be remediated or fixed so that it will be accessible. So when we look at an audit, what happens is we go through a website and we look at each page and we compare it to WCAG 2.0 AA and whatever deficiencies there are – they get listed out in that audit so that you and your web developer can go and make those changes.
And then, if you want to have an agency that specializes in website accessibility remediate your website, you could do that, or you and your developer can try to take the best course that you can and go your own route. And that’s going to be the cheaper route – obviously, it won’t be as good as an agency that specializes in website accessibility, but if you’ve got a good web developer, they can usually take what’s in the audit, research a little bit on their own and then come up with a good solution, a workable solution. And then you’re going to have a website with very good accessibility, now it won’t be perfect, but it will be very good going for it, especially depending on how good and thorough your audit is.
So let’s go over some of the components of the audit, and then we’ll talk about cost.
Now, the first thing I want to mention is that if you’re going to get an audit, always get a manual audit. This is where real people are actually going through your website and looking it over. Be careful of automated scans. You can get an automated scan of your website through the WAVE extension tool. That’s not what you want. The WAVE extension tool should be something that is used to supplement a complete audit, but you definitely don’t want a scan.
Be very, very careful of that because it’s very easy to fall in that trap if you don’t know what you’re doing and you want to look out for the hybrids where they say they scan it and then they also supplement it with their own people.
You want someone to be looking over each and every page and writing down things and then supplementing what they’re doing with a scan. But you don’t want a scan because then – a scan and then a supplement – because you don’t know how much of that is a scan and how much of that is there someone going through and quickly check marking each page.
So be very careful of that. You’ve got to be very discerning when you go through these different agencies out there and trying to pick out which is the right one for you because everybody wants to go the automated route because it’s fast and easy – they can make really fancy looking reports, but that don’t actually address everything. So you want to be sure to get a manual audit – that’s number one.
So when you do hire this expert or this agency, what are they going to do?
Well, they’re going to ask you for every URL for every page you want audited. And this is important because you’re not going to audit your whole website. A lot of websites are 50 or more pages, and it’s just inefficient to go once you go past 50 pages or 100 pages or whatever it is. You want to just get the main layout templates of your website that are used over and over again.
So, for example, this could be your checkout pages. This could be your user account pages, your product pages. This is your blog pages. All we’re doing is trying to get the template because once we have the audit for that one particular page, or layout, then it can be applied to all of the other similar pages.
So, for example, with e-commerce websites – let’s take a Shopify website. I will take one product page and audit that page, and then the rest of it can be applied to the other 2000 skews or 2000 URLs for other products. So that’s that’s the way it makes financial sense. You’re not going to go over each and every page because it would get largely redundant.
The next thing is you’re going to check each page as well as the overall site structure against WCAG 2.0 AA. So I mentioned this earlier but it’s important to keep in mind is that if you look at WCAG 2.0 AA there are 38 success criteria in total if you count level A that comprise AA.
So what you’re doing is you’re going through each page and you’re looking for anywhere where you might have a success criteria that has failed, or something that might be an issue, or something that just might be practically cumbersome to a user with a disability going through your website.
So all we’re doing here is just going through each page and then whittling down what is wrong with the page – it’s going that’s going to take place for your overall website. So when I’m talking about your overall website, there’s both your header and your foot or not include your navigation bar and your footer bar, and those are going to be redundant across your site. We’re going to look at those and get a general overall feel. But then we’re gonna go through each page URL and we’re going to go ahead and compare that, compare that with WCAG 2.0 AA and see how it does.
And then all of the issues are listed out for each template or layout or URL and chronological order. So the idea here is to make it as easy as possible to go through for you either yourself or your developer and look at the issues found on each page so that you can address them.
There’s also going to be clear remediation instructions and examples where applicable. So for every unique issue you see listed, there’s going to be instructions or examples of code that are provided, and that’s to help you along with fixing it so that you don’t need to again go back and try to get help on just looking at the audit.
Part of a good audit is just being clear and concise and straightforward and practical in terms of what is the problem and how do you actually address this? So a good audit won’t leave it a mystery as to what you need to do and sometimes with the, it depends on the company or the agency, but what they’ll do is they really want you to get the audit and then hire them for the remediation so they make it to where they slant it to where it’s not exactly – you’re not exactly sure of what to do. They don’t hash out everything.
A good audit is going to hash out everything because that’s what you’re paying for. You’re paying for a good manual audit that tells you what is wrong and what you need to do to address it.
Now, on some of the more complex issues, it’s not going to be possible to tell you exactly how to do it and, like, provide the code and just give you everything and hand it over. But for the most part, you can take each issue with WCAG and you can write out what’s wrong, and here’s generally how you fix it and go forward from there.
The next step is that there’s going to be automated scans, and this is going to be where the person or the agency auditing your website is going to supplement that with automated scans.
And there are a few pre ones and paid ones that you can use. And I’m thinking of WAVE as one. I’m thinking of AXE as another one, and then I’m thinking of Tenon as another one, and what you can do is you can use these to supplement that manual audit to make sure that you’re not missing anything that would be automatically checked by a scan.
It’s just a good backup, something you’d want to use and certainly something you want to use, particularly when it comes to WAVE, because WAVE is primarily used by plaintiffs’ law firms. So it’s very, very helpful to have a scan done with WAVE and then go through that with each URL.
And so what you’re doing here is you’re just supplementing the manual audit with the automated scans. It’s not purely the automated scans; they’re just merely bolstering the manual audit.
And then, of course, the end result is going to be a clean, concise, easy to understand PDF report.
Audits need to be actionable for you. If they’re too fluffy, they’re too jumbled, technical or long – it’s defeating.
You don’t want, you don’t want an audit that’s repetitive or goes on forever, or 100 page audit. It sounds good. It might even look good at first. You’re like, “Oh, wow, they did a lot of stuff.” But in the end, you’ve got to be able to get through that website or through that audit and make the applicable changes to your website and/or your developer might have to as well. And nobody wants to sit there and go through 100 page audit.
Now it might end up being 100 pages if you have that large and encompassing of a website. The key here is to get everything down to the essentials and be able to apply that.
So now let’s talk about the cost. For a manual audit, $1200 to $12,000 is a good range. The way I would approach it is if you start in the middle at $6,600, you can toggle up or down based on the following factors: the number of pages that are going to be audited, the complexity of the pages that are going to be audited, the more forms, media and dynamic elements all make a page more complex. And the current the current state of accessibility: Are you in really bad shape? Are you in decent shape? Are you in great shape? Are you in okay shape? All of that’s going to factor into the cost.
Typically, when I have an audit, it starts at $2500 but it just depends on the site size.
I have had some people with really easy sites – they were only a few pages, and so that takes the cost way down. If there’s only a few pages and it’s just like, “I want to make this, this is my web presence, I’m just a solo entrepreneur, and this is page is for mainly for people to contact me,” then that takes down the cost, and there’s not that much to do.
Now as far as the timeline, typically, you’re looking at 2 to 4 weeks – again, this go this is going to go to the complexity of the audit and how much work there is to do. Typically, you’re looking at 2 to 4 weeks. Usually don’t get it any faster unless you have a very easy website.
So that’s that’s how audits work. They’re really good. Here’s one other really key thing about audits. Not only can you take a good audit and leverage it to remediate your website, but it is great to have on your accessibility policy page that you audited your website – it shows genuine commitment and concern for accessibility.
And again, this greatly, significantly reduces your chance of receiving an ADA Website Compliance demand letter or lawsuit. So that’s the podcast for today, that’s how audits work. My name is Kris Rivenburgh. If you have any questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you want to learn more about audits, you can go to Accessible.org.