“But I don’t offer website accessibility services”

Why should you care about website accessibility if you don’t offer it as a service?

It’s an interesting question and one that I want to explore with you in this post.

Website accessibility is an issue that has been around for more than 2 decades. However it’s only in the last few years that the majority of agency owners are really starting to pay attention.

Of course, this process has been accelerated by the press coverage of legal cases in the US. For example you may have seen Murphy v. Eyebobs.

Website accessibility needs to be taken seriously. Not just because of the legal implications, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. We all need to be more inclusive and to provide a better experience to every website visitor.

It matters to your clients

Accessibility matters to your clients.

Yes, you can argue that it’s their responsibility to make sure their business is accessible. But let me ask you this – how does the average client know about website accessibility?

The simple answer is that they don’t.

Accessibility isn’t part of the small business owner’s manual. There isn’t a giant sticker that tells them how important it is that they’re offering an accessible experience to every visitor.

Remember that you’re the website expert that they’re trusting. They’re asking you to build a website and create a digital presence that brings their dreams to life. So it’s up to you to make them aware about website accessibility.

From a client perspective, you must tell them about why their website should be accessible. If you fail to do this, you’re putting yourself in the shoes of a dodgy second hand car salesperson. Potentially selling them a car with a known fault – and that’s not a great look for anyone.

Close up of an ostrich head
Photo by olgatrulev, licensed through Envato Elements

The ostrich approach is foolish

You can’t bury your head in the sand and ignore accessibility.

The internet is behind so many other areas of the world when it comes to caring about people who have disabilities. To put that into real terms, around 20% of potential visitors to any website suffer with some form of a disability. That’s a lot of visitors who can be affected by a website that isn’t accessible.

According to WebAIM’s 2022 Million report, 98.6% of the top 1,000,000 websites in the world had detectable accessibility failures. That’s a staggering number of websites that provided a potentially poor experience for their visitors.

Is your current agency site accessible? If not, when will it be?

We’re working on our site here, which I’ll talk about a bit more later on in this post.

According to Seyfarth, there were 3,225 website accessibility lawsuits in US federal court in 2022. This number is likely to grow in 2023, as the data has shown over the last few years.

The time to take accessibility seriously is now. Your clients deserve your expertise.

I’ve been the ostrich

This is the part of the post where I’m honest and share my own experience.

I fully understand what it’s like to be an agency owner who buries their head in the sand. I’ve done this too. I’ve been the ostrich.

My approach for a long time was to leave website accessibility up to my clients. If they didn’t ask about it, I didn’t go out of my way to educate them. How could I? I didn’t even understand every website accessibility issue myself. The extra work involved in fully understanding accessibility wasn’t something that was at the top of my to-do list.

It’s very easy to put something off that doesn’t generate immediate and obvious revenue to your business. The life of a digital agency owner is a busy one and my experiences were absolutely no exception to that.

I suppose it’s also one of those things that I thought about less, because it wasn’t something that affected me. When my own experiences online were unhindered by any disability, it was hard for me to mentally put myself in someone else’s shoes.

But I was wrong to do this. I hold my hands up and freely admit that my mindset was selfish.

Knowing what I’ve learned over the last 5 years, I’d definitely do things differently. That’s why I’m writing this post for you, as I don’t want you to make the same mistakes.

Don’t be selfish

The first thing you need to do is raise your head above the sand. No more being an ostrich.

You need to take the time to understand website accessibility. This is valuable knowledge that you can put into practice on your own website. It’s also knowledge that you can share with your clients.

It’s important to note here that you don’t have to offer every single accessibility service. You don’t have to offer accessibility audits. The point is simply that you’ll benefit from learning and understanding accessibility.

Your new found knowledge may even lead to you choosing to design all future websites from an “accessible first” mindset.

If you’re interested in learning more about accessibility, here are some links you may find helpful:

Man stacking coins in increasing sizes
Photo by supitnan, licensed through Envato Elements

Making accessibility profitable

This is the main section that I hope will change your mind if you’re on the fence when it comes to website accessibility.

As an important note here, I am talking about profitability from a business aspect. Everything that you do in your business needs to have some relative impact on your marketing or your revenue.

The obvious way to make accessibility profitable is to learn everything about website accessibility. This puts you in a position to offer accessibility audits and possibly even arrange your own user testing if that’s the sort of thing you’d like to do.

However you do not have to offer accessibility services directly in order to make accessibility profitable.

The best option for most agency owners is to partner with a specialist company.

For example, you can partner with a company that offers accessibility audits. This partnership could work on a white label or a referral basis.

So for white label, you’d bill your client directly. The profit would be the difference between what you charge for an accessibility audit and what you pay the specialist company for their work.

With the referral option, you’ll agree a fee that the specialist company will pay you for the introduction of a new client. This is the easier of the two options and gives you the benefit of building up a great relationship with a company that specialises in accessibility.

Once an accessibility audit has been performed, there’ll be a list of changes that need to be made to your client’s website. These changes will relate to the desired WCAG conformance level, e.g. WCAG 2.1 AA.

You can charge your clients to help them make these changes. More importantly, your accessibility knowledge will help you to understand the changes and to make sure you get them right.

So yes, you can profit from helping your clients with accessibility. It’s not a word that you need to be scared of.

If I could do everything again

I’m no longer an agency owner, as I closed my agency in 2020 after the successful launch of Funnel Packs.

I know now what I would’ve done differently and I’m sharing this in the hopes that it will help you with your agency.

So if we could roll back time, here’s what I’d do differently:

  • Learn – I’d take the time to fully learn about website accessibility. I’d do this through taking one or more courses and familiarising myself with each of the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) conformance levels.
  • Be open – I’d be open about accessibility with every client. I’d take the time to explain the basics of accessibility. I’d create and share guides that show them why it’s important to be inclusive to ALL of their audience.
  • Start from within – The first step would be to make my own agency website accessible. Not only would it provide good practice with following WCAG standards, but it also sets the right tone for my agency. Showing that we’re inclusive is important and meaningful if you care about making the world a better place.
  • Accessible first – I’d design every new client website from an accessible first perspective. Accessibility wouldn’t be a choice for clients, it would be the standard that we’d set with our agency. I believe this is a better way to deliver website projects.
  • Refer – I wouldn’t choose to offer accessibility audits for existing websites directly. This is a decision made from the perspective of being a small business and not wanting to spread ourselves too thin on services offered. Instead, I would partner with a specialist company and refer clients to them for accessibility audits.
  • Fix – I’d help clients who have a report from an accessibility audit to fix their websites. This is an important service to offer, as you won’t always be helping a client with a new website. So they can be referred for an audit and once that’s complete, any fixes can be implemented on their site.

There are of course extra steps that could be taken, but I think this is a good start.

With the six points above, I think this takes an agency from being “good” to “great”. Instead of focusing just on design principles, creating content or marketing campaigns – you’d be focusing on everyone.

Our accessibility plans

There’s a fair chance at this point that you feel or see that our website isn’t fully accessible.

At the time of writing this post, you’d be absolutely correct. But it’s not going to stay this way.

Mel and I have had a busy start in our business, with our lives taken up by helping more than 1,400 customers from 30+ countries around the world.

We’ve also had time taken away in the last 2 years through a series of personal illnesses.

Our commitment this year is that we will be making everything that we do accessible by the end of 2023. Specifically, we’re aiming for full conformance with WCAG 2.1 AA.

This has already started in a number of key areas. For example, all new video content that we create has both captions and full transcripts available. We’re retroactively working through older content to add the same elements for each video.

Being accessible is important to us and we want to be inclusive to every website visitor. We look forward to reaching our goal by the end of 2023 across all websites that we operate.

Website accessibility should never be a choice

It may feel like a choice to have or offer an accessible website to your clients.

This is especially true if you find yourself in a country or jurisdiction where there isn’t a specific law in place. Although that won’t be for long as laws will continue to catch up with the internet. Don’t think you’ll be protected forever if you’re in that situation now.

Website accessibility should never be a choice.

Human beings didn’t choose to have a disability.

They didn’t choose to be in a position where they can’t use a website because it’s not accessible.

If you make the choice to not offer an accessible website, you’re telling users with disabilities that you don’t care about them.

We’re only custodians of this planet for a short period of time. Is that the type of legacy that you want to leave behind when you’re gone?

Instead of thinking about accessibility as a choice, think of it as an opportunity to create new connections and relationships. An accessible website is welcoming to all visitors, no matter who they are and what their circumstances might be.

It’s your choice to take accessibility seriously.

You have a great gift that you offer to your clients through the skills that you have. Add accessibility knowledge and understanding to that gift.

Let’s make the world a better place together.

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *