WordPress Accessibility Plugins Only Kind of Work – Which is Best?

I know what you’re looking for.

You want that elusive FREE free WordPress plugin that you upload to your WP dashboard and it instantly solves all of your website’s accessibility weak spots.

Three words:

Does.  Not.  Exist.

There is no “one click accessibility” or “instantly accessible” option.

The best plugin I’ve seen is Joe Dolson’s WP Accessibility.

And Joe will even tell you his plugin can’t reach all of the accessibility issues.

A plugin can only do so much, it can’t:

  • add alt tags to images,
  • add labels to forms,
  • add closed captioning to videos
  • can’t rewrite all of your anchor text to be descriptive
  • can’t make PDFs accessible
  • can’t ensure your website is fully functional using only a keyboard

What about toolbar overlays like WPAccessibility.io?

Whether it’s a free WP plugin like WPAccessibility.io or a paid toolbar overlay like Accessibe.com (note the on purpose mispelling), toolbar overlays are only minimally helpful.

The truth is that toolbar overlays are usually redundant with the options screen readers provide users; they look helpful on the outside but don’t upgrade accessibility performance nearly as much as you might think.

I actually have a premium WP project that is on my back burner that would be as close to an all-in-one solution as you’d find (think Dolson’s but more thorough, several more bases covered) but I’m months away from having that developed and ready for consumers.

One key in all of this is the plugin is going to have to work in conjunction with an accessible theme + you’re going to have to continually upload content in an accessible manner.

What constitutes website accessibility?

Check out the Web Accessibility Standards (WAS).

The ADA Checklist: 2019 Compliance Guidelines to Make Your Website Accessible

man points to laptop while woman is listening with interest in a workplace setting

This overview/guide takes 10 minutes to read.

There are two approaches to website accessibility/how to make your site accessible: WCAG and WAS.

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

WAS stands for Web Accessibility Standards.

Both have the same fundamental components of accessibility.

WCAG is commonly referenced by courts and WAS is a simpler, easier to understand version of WCAG.

Here is the official WAS PDF.

WCAG is way too long to copy and paste but below is a simplified, plain English overview of WCAG:

1. Non-Text Media Alternatives

· Alt Text: Add alt text to all meaningful images on your website.

· Closed Captioning: All videos on your website must have closed captioning (thankfully YouTube videos can be edited to include CC).

· Text Transcripts: Insert a text transcript beneath all video-only and audio-only files.

· Audio descriptions: Insert audio descriptions into pauses of a video.

· No Images of Text: All text must be readable by a screen reader.

2. No or Limited Automatic Content

· Anything that activates on your website (such as an add, video, audio, pop-up, blinking ad, scrolling text, etc.) without being prompted by the user must be able to be paused, hidden, or stopped.

· Static Website Forms: Forms (sign ups, subscriptions, surveys, etc.) must be fully controllable by the user.

3. Keyboard Accessible

· You must be able to fully access your site without a mouse, by using only the arrow or tab buttons.

4. Intuitive Website

· Language and Title Tags: Set a language for your website and provide clear titles for each page.

· Skip to Content: Users must be able to a page’s primary content.

· Consistent Navigation and Flow: Your website’s structure and page set up needs to be predictable and logical (Facebook is the perfect example of consistency and predictability).

· Descriptive Links and Headers: Be obvious in linking to or setting up content so that users know what to expect. In other words, be very obvious in wording your headers, and anchor text/text surrounding your links.

· Labeled Elements: Programmatically label form fields and frames.

· Multiple Ways to Access Content: Provide multiple ways to navigate through your website. Examples: sitemap, search bar, related pages links, header menu, footer links, etc.

· Clear Forms: Make forms simple and easy to fill out.

· Clean Code: Your website must be coded properly and free of errors (e.g. 200, 300, 400, 500 error pages).

html code on computer screen

5. Font and Text Requirements

· Color Ratio: All font should contrast from its background color at a 4.5:1 minimum threshold.

· Scalable: Text should be able to be resized or zoomed in up to 200% without any loss of functionality.

The American Foundation for the Blind incorporates these elements into their site and optimally provides a way to change visual appearance at the top of each page.

6. Time Limitations

· There should be no time constraints on your website unless absolutely necessary.

The main differences between WAS and WCAG are:

  • WCAG allows for automatic pop-ups, auto-playing videos and audio whereas WAS does not
  • WCAG calls for extensive production for video alternatives whereas WAS does not.
  • WAS is more binary, it’s easier to tell whether you meet a WAS requirement
  • WAS is quicker, simpler, and easier to read and understand

W3C (creators of WCAG) organizes the above guidelines into four categories: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust (POUR).

While that’s a nice acronym, the most important thing to remember when remediating or updating your website is that the functioning, elements, and content must be accessible to everyone including the visually impaired, hearing impaired, those with cognitive disabilities, and those with physical disabilities.

Accessibility Notes

ADA website compliance and web accessibility are two terms that are used interchangeably but they are distinct from one another.

ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.  Courts are construing Title III of the ADA to mean that websites must be accessible.  Thus, with ADA website compliance, we’re referring to the law.

Web accessibility refers to making your digital offerings accessible (website, apps, documents, presentations, etc.).

WCAG 2.0 AA is a lengthy set of guidelines so the ADA checklist summary above won’t cover every last detail and exception, just the key, general takeaways.

One very important note is to remember that the WCAG guidelines for accessibility are NOT the law. WCAG 2.0 has been strongly referenced by the Department of Justice and courts in interpreting whether a website is accessible but it is NOT the law.

What this means is if you don’t meet every last success criterion it doesn’t necessarily mean your website is inaccessible.

Another note is that the new WCAG 2.1 guidelines (released in June 2018) build on the foundation that is 2.0; they extend upon the existing guidelines and success criterion.

2.1 is about enhancing and optimizing your accessibility. If your website only complies with 2.0, it doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible. Most companies are completely caught off guard by accounting for access to disabled – this is what’s being litigated across the US right now – so you’re by no means behind if you haven’t integrated all of the new updates.

youtube logo

Legal Requirements

I mentioned legal requirements above. While there aren’t technically requirements (yet), we do know about some of the highly recommended best practices by way of some consent decrees (basically settlements) entered into by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and private companies found to have inaccessible websites.

Quickly, here are the basics:

  • Appoint a web accessibility coordinator
  • Hire a qualified, independent consultant
  • Conduct web accessibility training twice a year
  • Adopt an accessibility policy page
  • Invite and solicit feedback

For smaller businesses and organizations, the cost won’t make sense to have a web accessibility coordinator but for larger entities such as corporations, appointing one individual to see all digital accessibility is beneficial.

The Law

If you want to get technical, there is no black letter law that says websites must be ADA compliant.  However, that’s not a debate you want to have in district court.

As an attorney, I always advocate what I call “legal prevention” which means that you avoid legal entanglement when at all possible.  In this instance, we can reasonably argue on the merits as to whether your website needs to be ADA compliant (unless you’re a governmental entity under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act or a recipient of federal funding under 504 – accessibility is required here).

Section 508 is an amendment (1998) to the Rehabilitation Act that required government agencies to make electronic and information technology (AKA websites) accessible to those with disabilities.  However, this was not a mandate for private companies.

508 followed the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) which, in Title III of the act, the ADA requires that businesses, state and local governments and nonprofit services providers make accommodations for the disabled public to access the same services as patrons who are not disabled.

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and says that places of public accommodation (including private commercial enterprises) need to make accommodations for the disabled (42 U.S.C. § 12182).  Importantly, a place of public accommodation, per 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7), amounts to a privately operated facility whose operations affect commerce.   However, since the ADA came pre Internet era, the ADA didn’t contemplate or mention websites or apps.

In 2010, the DOJ issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) called the Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability; Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities and Public Accommodations.  An ANPRM is not law but a published notice in the Federal Register used by an agency to feel out its proposal and get feedback/comments before making it a rule; It’s a prudent move by federal agencies to try and get everything right before making a law.

The DOJ’s 2010 ANPRM made it clear that a rule for web accessibility was coming and asked whether WCAG 2.0 AA success criterion should be used or whether the existing 508 standards were best.

Although no formal rule was published, in March of 2014, the DOJ began entering consent decrees (basically settlements) with private companies using the WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines as standards for website accessibility.  Click here to see the first consent decree against HR Block.

Piggybacking on these consent decrees, private law firms have been increasingly (and ever more aggressively) sending demand letters to corporations (e.g. Amazon, Target, Hershey’s, Bank of America, Bed Bath & Beyond, Hulu, Charles Schwab, Safeway, CNN, etc.) threatening lawsuit if demands weren’t met.  Most companies choose to settle vs. a legal battle but some including Dominos Pizza and Winn Dixie have gone all the way to litigation.

In Robles v. Dominos Pizza LLC (Case No. 42 CV 16-06599 SJO (C.D. Cal. Mar. 20, 2017)), a federal court in California dismissed a class action lawsuit against Dominos, accepting the defandants due process defense.  In a nutshell, the court found Dominos does have to make accessibility accommodations but because the plaintiff was trying to hold them to technical standards that weren’t promulgated by law, the case was dismissed.

In the landmark Carlos Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., Civil Action No. 16–23020 (S.D. Fla.) (first ADA website compliance case to go to trial), U.S. District Judge Robert Scola ruled against Winn-Dixie, finding that their website was indeed a place of public accommodation and that WCAG 2.0 guidelines were the de facto standard.

With US District Courts making incongruent decisions without actual law, the DOJ needed to step up and lay down formal regulations.

The Department of Justice was set to announce formal regulations for ADA website compliance in 2018 but those plans were scrapped when the Trump DOJ took over and nixed the Obama administration DOJ’s plans.

This is where the current legal situation lies.

Most corporate entities and companies are settling in non-public settlements.  Plaintiff’s attorneys and law firms have swarmed like locusts in attacking the deepest pockets they can threaten.

I highly recommend small businesses, companies, corporations, organizations, etc. to take the proactive approach to web compliance and get started.

For further guidance in reducing exposure to lawsuit and becoming ADA compliant, The ADA Book (available at ADABook.com) is a tremendous resource (written by me).

How much does it cost to make your website accessible?

Quick answer:

It depends based on the complexity of your website and who you hire to address accessibility.

Your cost might be as little as $500 for a simple blog or as much as $500,000+ for a major corporate website.

Quick background:

ADA website compliance is the legal side and accessibility is the technical/developmental side.

To be legally in the clear, you need to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

To be ADA compliant, you need to have an accessible website.

What are the prices for products/services?

You can hire an independent contractor on Freelancer or Upwork.

You can expect to pay $500 – $7,500+ depending on the website.  To save money, you need to have detailed specifications of exactly what you need done and you must oversee the project.

You can hire a rock solid web developer for $15-20/hour.  If they have WCAG 2.0 or accessibility knowledge, you’re going to pay more.

If you hire an agency that specializes in accessibility to retrofit your website, you’re looking at $5,000 – $50,000+.

The way you can save money with hiring an expert in accessible web development is to handle the manual remediation internally.  Whether it’s you or your “web team”, if you can take care of all of your alt text and closed captioning, it’s going to save you money vs. having a developer or agency do it for you.

Vendors:

AudioEye automated software and manual remediation probably starts at $6,000 – $10,000 a year.  That’s a recurring cost.  And notice I said starts at.  Price varies based on website.  Trained live accessible phone, chat, and email support included.

Accessibe automated software starts at $490 annually.  This is not a viable route for accessibility as the main component of their offering is installing a toolbar on your website which is redundant with what most screen readers offer.

For mid tier websites like small credit unions, banks, hotels, restaurants, etc. you can expect a bill of about $10,000 – $50,000+.  Financial institutions can expect to pay more simply because of the security involved and the number of forms used.  Restaurants are going to pay on the lower end.

Another cost tidbit: The more you’re able to interchange website elements at scale, the easier and cheaper it will be to make your website accessible.

For example, if you have a 1,000 page website and have the ability to swap out widgets or change links for hundreds of pages at a time, it’s going to save you some serious money.  Think of it as being able to edit on a macro level, take a broad view, so to speak.

What about automated scanning tools?

Accessibility checkers are a nifty way of determining some of the ways your website is lacking.  I recommend trying a few different scans to get a solid feel of where you need improvement.

WAVE is the most popular tool.

Tenon.io by Karl Groves is a premium automated checker but it’s a good one and cost effective.

I always advise not to pay for scanning services and reports from vendors.  These can be extremely expensive (thousands of dollars) and not provide much more information than the free scans.

The “More Accessible” Trap

Look out for things (WordPress accessibility plugins, WP themes, services, etc.) that say they are “more accessible”.

WordPress themes (and themes for other CMS platforms like Drupal) commonly have the generic “more accessible” and “WCAG 2.0” tags attached to them but you have to be extremely careful about buying them because these are more aspirational claims than reality.  Typically you’ll get a boost of accessible elements on your website but buying an accessible theme – premium or free – will not take care of everything for you.

This about the phrase “more accessible” – what does that even mean?

It can mean anything.

It can mean one accessibility component is addressed or many have – we don’t know.

When researching products or services, you need to find outexactly what they do and what criteria they make your website meet.

When it comes to accessibility, demand specificity.  Almost every vendor will say they meet WCAG 2.0 but you need to find out exactly how they do and do not.  And it’s okay that they don’t.  Virtually zero vendors can cross off every bullet point, but you need to be thorough so you know exactly where you’re deficient so you can shore that up.

For example, WIX and Square Space (online website creation software) hedge on whether their websites are accessible.

Here’s another example I personally experienced:

I was specifically searching for an accessible live chat plugin for ADABook.com and I stumbled upon Olark.com.  Olark claims accessibility with a specific page but then backtracks with very tepid language:

“We aim to adhere to the WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines for the code that our customers install on their websites. Our code is written so that the chatbox is navigable by keyboard using screen reader software.”

That’s nice but keyboard navigability is just one bullet point.  Before I install a third party plugin or widget, I want to know, are you completely accessible or are you not.  I contacted their support via email and live chat.  Here is my email and Olark’s reply:

Hi,

Having fully accessible live chat is critical for me. I choose [sic] Olark live chat because Olark is one of the few who specifically embraces accessibility but after installing the Olark plugin today and reading through the policy found here:

https://www.olark.com/help/accessibility,

I wanted to learn more about how Olark chat is accessible beyond keyboard navigation. Can you tell me specifically what WCAG 2.0 success criterion Olark has satisfied?

Thank You,

Kris

Hi Kris,

Unfortunately, I don’t have that documentation to share. I can tell you that we’ve implemented the chatbox in a way that it’s accessible to a screen reader and we’ve enabled a high-contrast mode for the agent console, so far. Accessibility is important to us, but it will be something we’re continually working on.
Are there any specific features you’d like us to put in requests for? I’d be happy to get those requests in for you!

Thanks,
Rhi

By the way, this is not to take points off for Olark because they were the ONLY live chat plugin I saw that even talked about accessibility.  Chances are 80% of live chat plugins haven’t even thought of accessibility.

Hire a Web Accessibility Consultant

kris rivenburgh at end of conference table looking at microsoft surface laptop

What solution is right for your needs and your budget?

How can I have someone look over my deal with a vendor and make sure it’ll make me ADA compliant?

What is the best all-in-one solution?

Where exactly do I start with accessibility?

First, I highly recommend you pick up The ADA Book.  It’s written by me and takes you through a step-by-step blueprint of how to prevent a demand letter or lawsuit while you become accessible.

Second, if you need help with your project, you can hire me as a web accessibility consultant.

Beyond the optics of hiring an independent consultant (the DOJ actually stipulates in multiple settlement agreements that companies hire a consultant as part of the settlement so it looks good to have on record that you hired one), there are several practical benefits.  A consultant can:

  • Perform a manual audit on your website
  • Create a web accessibility plan
  • Help you deal with vendors, evaluate products and services
  • Educate your company on how to be accessible
  • Relay status and next steps to executives, your coordinator
  • Convey what needs to be done to web developers
  • Institute a training program for your coordinator, web accessibility team
  • Alert you of changes in accessibility, new best practices
  • Answer your questions
  • Conduct annual audits

My name is Kris Rivenburgh.  If you have a question, you are welcome to email me at kris@adabook.com.  You can find out how to reduce your chances of receiving an ADA Website Compliance lawsuit at ADABook.com.

The ADA Book: Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Prevent a Website Compliance Lawsuit

Just two days ago, I officially published The ADA Book.

There is nothing like this book available in the marketplace.

The ADA Book gives you a step-by-step blueprint of the best way to approach making a website accessible. The chronological order in which you approach web accessibility is crucial, it can be the difference between receiving a demand letter and not.

The order I provide recommend is based on court rulings and the charged violations contained within demand letters and lawsuits.

This information is extremely valuable. It will enable you to have a cloak of accessibility (to thwart plaintiff’s law firms) while you bring your website up to date, mostly following WCAG 2.0 AA.

As you read through the steps outlined, you’ll be able to formulate a plan on how best to approach website compliance. But, as you’ll read, I advise an aggressive attack vs. strategizing; the strategy is reading the book and then you run with the information and make your website accessible.

Here are some of the components of the book:

Legal Overview

Inside the book, I also summarize the legal landscape. I think it’s important for context, so readers can understand exactly how we’ve arrived at a code red in accessibility and what exactly the different terminology means. Let’s talk about this briefly.

ADA refers to The Americans With Disabilities Act and Title III of the ADA is supposedly what mandates that websites be ADA compliant.

What does compliance mean?

It means your website is accessible to persons with disabilities.

How do you make your website accessible?

The de facto standard used by US courts and the DOJ is WCAG 2.0 Success Level AA which is compromised of about two dozen requirements or “success criterion”. Key point: WCAG or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is not the law, merely something courts look to when determining whether a website is accessible.

If your website doesn’t meet one of the success criterion under WCAG, do you all of a sudden have an inaccessible website?

It depends which success criterion you don’t meet.

WCAG 2.0 Summary and Detailed Outline

Well how exactly do you make a website accessible?

In the ADA book, I summarize each WCAG 2.0 AA success criterion in plain, simple English so that anyone can understand what it is asking for. There are two outlines: a quick one for context and a detailed one for execution.

Here is an ultra brief summary for context as far as this blog post:

Provide alternatives

· Alt Text: Add alt text to all meaningful images

· Add closed captioning to all videos with sound

· Add a text transcript beneath all video-only and audio-only files

· Avoid images of text

No Automatic Content

· No Pop-Ups: Remove any distractors that activate on your website without being prompted by the user

· Static Website Forms: Forms must be fully controllable by the user

Keyboard Accessible

· Your website must be fully accessible without a mouse, by using the arrow or tab buttons (no users should get trapped on an element where they can’t tab backwards)

Intuitive Website

· Language and Title Tags: Set a language for your website and provide clear titles for each page

· Skip to Content: Users must be able to skip your heading and navigation menu and get right to the content

· Consistent Navigation and Flow: Your overall website and each page needs to be predictable and logical (e.g. Facebook has different types of pages but each has a consistent and predictable structure )

· Descriptive Links and Headers: Word your headers in such a way that makes it obvious what the information following the headers is about. Also, craft your anchor text/text surrounding your links so that it makes the link destination clear

· Labeled Elements: Put a label on each important element of your website

· Multiple Ways to Access Content: Provide multiple ways to navigate through your website (e.g search bar, site map, related pages section, navigation menus, footer links, etc.)

· Clear Forms: Make forms simple and easy to fill out

· Clean Code: Your website must be coded properly and free of errors

Font Thresholds

· Color Ratio: All font should sharply contrast from its background color at a 4.5:1 minimum threshold (if you’re using soft grays/blues for your regular font and links, look out)

· Scalable: Text should be able to be resized up to 200% without any loss of functionality (I recommend starting with a larger font base of 14-16 pt)

Only Necessary Time Limits

· There should be no time constraints on website access unless absolutely necessary

 

Blueprint: Where do you start?

The most important part of The ADA Book is where I detail exactly how to approach website accessibility.  There is a lot of legal best practices embedded within this section because this is all about not getting sued, reducing your risk of seeing a demand letter in your mailbox.

Exactly no one wants to get sued and in the blueprint section is where I strategize for what I would do with a general website.

This information is going to have applicability for any type of entity: corporations, banks, credit unions, mom and pop shops, small businesses, hotels, non-profits, churches, universities, financial and investment institutions, restaurants, etc.

I don’t think I can emphasize enough how important the next steps you take are.  How you approach accessibility makes all the difference between getting sued and not.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Another section full of gold information is the FAQ section where I answer common questions I have seen in forums and discussions on the web.  I’ve searched Quora, Reddit, and keyword research tools to find the pressing questions people want to know.

  • Do all websites need to be ADA compliant?
  • Does it matter if I don’t have 15 employees?
  • What about WCAG 2.1 (just released in June of 2018)?
  • How much is a typical settlement?
  • Are plaintiff’s law firms just going after deep pockets?
  • What industries are they targeting the most?

and several more questions are answered.

The ADA Book (released February 2019) is going to guide you through the best way to become accessible so that you hopefully never have to hire an attorney to represent you.  It’s written by an attorney and accessibility consultant (me), gets right to the point, and contains really, really good information – the best information in the world.

You can buy the book at https://adabook.com.

2019 Review: AccessiBe Automatic Website Solution Accessibility Using AI

This blog post was updated on May 22, 2019.

I found AccessiBe.com when looking for AudioEye competitors and I was extremely skeptical upon first glance for two main reasons:

  1. They make they bold and impossible claim that they are the “only 100% automatic web accessibility solution”
  2. They cost $289 annually [UPDATE: Now $365 – June 12 UPDATE: Now $490 – This is very interesting as I was told this was not about the money for them yet they keep increasing their price point.] (vs. 5-figure starting range for most websites with AudioEye)

Nevertheless, I scheduled a demo to see what they were all about.  I’ve also audited a website with AccessiBe installed and experimented with a free trial on one of my own sites.  Below is my review.

First and foremost, they SHOULD NOT be claiming to make your website accessible within 2 days or whatever lightning fast turnaround because they cannot deliver that.

Significant manual remediation is almost always necessary to make a website actually accessible.

It seems like AccessiBe is trying to move in the right direction but website accessibility is not a quick fix – you can’t just paste some java code and have AI update your alt text and think you’ve got an accessible website.

If you’re a website owner just trying to figure out if this is a possible solution, let me just offer you this very flatly and quickly:

Installing AccessiBe basically amounts to putting a toolbar on your website that can make some adjustments of the website.  But it does not make the website itself accessible.  Moreover, many of the adjustments are already taken care of by screen readers for people who would most likely take advantage of said adjustments.

As for the demo, I talked to their Chief Technology Officer or CTO, Shir Ekerling and he came across as genuine in his desire to make the web a more accessible place.

I asked Shir who he thought their competitors are and he mentioned Level Access, UseableNet, and AudioEye with AudioEye being the only automated solution.  We both agreed that AudioEye was like a hybrid as they are part automation, part manual remediation.

Here’s a Q&A style outline of my review:

What are some of the differences between AccessiBe and AudioEye?

Price is a big one.  AudioEye is probably going to start at or near 5-figures annually for most companies.  AccessiBe.com states their cost is $289/year [Now $365].

Another huge one is AudioEye provides live accessible support on client websites – like as in actual chat and phone support.  AccessiBe does not.

An additional key difference is AccessiBe relies, to an extent, upon artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make websites more accessible.  To my knowledge, AudioEye isn’t here yet.

AccessiBe has not yet applied itself to native apps because they are coded using HTML 5.

How good is the AI?

Shir told me it takes care of 96% of accessibility issues (me: no, it doesn’t).  However, this is for certain website issues, not multi-media problems.  One service AccessiBe offers separately is creating transcripts and closed captioning for audio and video.  If you have significant audio and video, this will halt your path to accessibility as text transcripts and closed captioning is a large obstacle to becoming accessible.  Oh, and PDFs require a separate package too.

What is their approach?

Like AudioEye, Accessibe premises their product on WCAG 2.0.  Solid.

They then take care of the easy fixes, what Shir referred to as 30% of accessibility such as color contrast, font size, font families, and animations.  This all comes from their interface which is available for website users if you click on an icon (customizable on the client’s end).  Just like with AudioEye, users can customize how they want to experience the website.

Next, they run AI to fix the rest of the non-accessible elements on the website.

How long does it take to finish?

I believe Shir said 2-3 days.  It may have been 4.  Whatever it was, it was only a few days.  This marks another difference, because AudioEye is less automated, many of their remediation efforts take around 3-4 months; their website says usually less than 100 days.

AudioEye’s length of time is more in line with how long genuine remediation takes.

What about WCAG 2.1?

They said they’re working on it.

What’s something that impressed you?

AccessiBe’s image recognition ability is incredible.  They can scan images and automatically assign alt text to them.  The alt text is by no means perfect but it’s scary good.  The image recognition even extracts images of text and conveys that in the alt text – that’s huge, especially for companies that have hundreds, thousands, even millions of images.

I also liked they have worked with one of the JAWS (most popular screen reader) developers.

What is my impression?

They do not deliver website accessibility in a box – NOT EVEN CLOSE.  What you have to remember about automated accessibility providers is they are going to continue to get better as we move along but we are not at a point where a turnkey solution is possible.

Nice initiative but there is significant work to be done and they need to roll back on their claims of near instant accessibility.

Practically speaking,  Accessibe might be good in the sense that plaintiff’s law firms might see it and steer away but I can guarantee your inaccessible website elements, content, functioning does not automatically become accessible when you install Acccessibe.

2019 Review: AudioEye Automated Accessibility Software

Updated May 22, 2019.

Review update: AudioEye provides a strong solution in that they do genuinely remediate your site to be accessible.  They have a strong development team that does a good job and you can expect to have an accessible website within 3-4 months.

The big problem is cost – it’s not really the upfront price so much as it is they require an annual subscription for that price.  After the first year, the value of the subscription really falls off a cliff despite the add-ons like knowledgeable support for persons with disabilities and continual promise to maintain the accessibility of your website.

I think they’re a good, legitimate provider but I don’t see how they maintain their current recurring subscription business model without a significant price decrease in subsequent years.

I spoke to Jill Micheli, a senior account executive at AudioEye, today and we went over a demo, what the company offers, and about accessibility in general.  I came away encouraged with the direction AudioEye is headed.  In this post, I’ll informally question and answer some of the highlights of our phone call.

Note: This is an evergreen post.  I’ll update it after I meet with the group at the CSUN conference and further research competitors and the software.

Before we get to the Q & A, here’s an AudioEye YouTube demo for context:

Is it completely automated?

No.  The first part is.  This is where they scan your website and automate the fixes they can make through software.  I don’t have a list of the exact WCAG 2.0 AA elements they satisfy through automation but Jill informed me a good amount of the fixes can be solved automatically.

How long does it take to become accessible/ADA compliant?

It seems like once they take you on as a client, they begin the process of compliance by upgrading what they can, instituting their toolbar, and creating accessibility and certification statements.  It’s going to take about 3-4 months (depending on the complexity your website – may be less, may be more) for you to be actually be ADA compliant, though.

Do they provide accessible support?

Yes.  I think this is actually one of their bigger selling points.  The key is they do have knowledgeable people who can help people with disabilities if they need help.

I think support is so important, I asked if you could buy this ala carte – you cannot.

Does their software work with WordPress CMS?

Yes.

Do they need to manipulate code?

Yes but they typically don’t need to overhaul your design to make your website more accessible.

Do they make apps accessible?

Yes.

How much do they cost?

Price is going to vary based on the website (simple websites will cost less and more dynamic/involved websites will cost more) and while Jill did provide me with some general ranges, she did say that it really depends on the site.  If you’ve got a larger company, you’re probably going to start at 5-figures a year and that this is a recurring cost with software, remediation, monitoring, and live help included.

The lowest you can expect to pay is probably mid 4-figures annually.  It’s a recurring cost, not one-time upfront fee.

Who are their competitors?

Update: AudioEye seems to have the most visibility and certainly spends the most in advertising but Deque (Deque.com) is also in the accessibility space and within the accessibility provider community is seen more as the leader.

Deque is more expansive in their offerings, whether it be services, tools, or training.

From all of my research, AudioEye is the market leader in automated accessibility.  Another provider that has an automated solution is AccessiBe.com.   AccessiBe claims that they use AI and machine learning to make websites accessible.  I’ve demoed their solution and created a separate review.

Although AccessiBe is in the website accessibility business, AudioEye will actually make your website accessible by doing the dirty work, manual remediation.  AccessiBe does not do this in their turnkey, boxed product.

One problem in researching competitors is Google’s search algorithm is returning any websites with the words accessibility & software instead of returning similar alternative automated solutions.  Just because there isn’t anything showing in Google doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist so I’ll continue looking.

Of course, there are service providers such as BOIA, The Bureau of Internet Accessibility, Criterion 508, Deque, Crown Peak, Carroll, WebAim, Accessible 360, Be Accessible, Essential Accessibility, and Crown Peak.

What do I think?

AudioEye is solid but EXPENSIVE.

They’re one of the top real providers you can find but they’ve really priced themselves out of almost all of the non-corporate markets.

AudioEye’s initial year cost is probably worth it for remediation – maybe even a little bit more.

For example, let’s say you’re running a large website with lots of forms and media and you need it remediated quickly by a competent agency.  If AudioEye charged you $25,000 to get it done within 3 months, that’s probably reasonable (depending on the work load, of course).

But there’s no way to justify charging that amount as a recurring annual subscription; the value just drops off a cliff after all the initial, upfront charge is made.

True, knowledgeable support is a nice value add-on and so are accessibility updates (such as updating for WCAG 2.1) but it’s not worth paying year over year for.

I advise paying up for a one-time development charge vs. signing up for years of a subscription service.

Who am I?

My name is Kris Rivenburgh.  I’m a web accessibility consultant, attorney, and the author of The ADA Book, a book on how to reduce your risk of receiving a demand letter.

If you have any questions or need help making your website accessible, you can leave a comment below or contact me at kris [at] adabook [dot] com.