Shopify Website Manual Accessibility Audit vs. Scan for ADA Compliance

I just got off the phone with a very frustrated small business owner.

As with many of my clients, she owns an e-commerce website and she’s using the Shopify platform.

She’s based in New York and got hit with an ADA Website Compliance demand letter or lawsuit (I didn’t ask whether it was officially filed with the court). And there’s probably some parallel disability discrimination laws tacked on there (e.g. New York State Human Rights Law). But either way, she’s hired a defense attorney and wants to defend against the lawsuit.

She came to me seeking out someone to review her website and certify it was ADA Compliant.

First thing is you can’t certify ADA Compliance because what are you certifying? There is nothing in the Americans with Disabilities Act that outlines exactly what makes a website accessible.

What you can get from certain web accessibility agencies like Deque or WebAIM is a statement of conformance saying that your website meets either WCAG 2.0 AA or 2.1 AA success criteria. But, they’re most likely going to require you to go through their audit and remediation before they issue you a statement of conformance (which is basically equivalent to certification).

Before I talked to her on the phone, I ran a quick WAVE scan (favored automated accessibility scan of plaintiffs’ lawyers) to get a gauge of the general state of accessibility on her website.

There were a lot of errors. Too many errors.

Her Shopify website had been audited by one company and remediated by another.

I asked her how much she paid and the cost came to roughly $2,000 for the audit and $1,000 for the remediation.

I had her send me a copy of the audit and it basically amounted to an aggregated report of different automated accessibility scans that you can get from Chrome or Firefox extensions.

Sadly, this is what a lot of people are getting back when they contract for an ADA Compliance or accessibility review: a nicely formatted PDF that copies and pastes what the automated scans list as issues.

A real, manual audit for a Shopify website will start at $3,500 minimum (just depends on how much work is involved). That’s as cheap as it gets for an e-commerce website audit and keep in mind this is just for an audit that tells you everything that’s wrong – it does not involve the remediation or fixing of a website.

Anyway, the automated audit still didn’t even list all of the issues that needed to be fixed – and I’m referring to just the things that showed up in the WAVE scan, not things that you would find going through the online store manually.

I don’t know what was addressed during remediation and because the two jobs were run independently, I can’t definitely say how effective or ineffective the remediation was.

Another note on cost: Remediation will not be $1,000 unless the website is relatively easy to fix. Usually you’re looking at $5,000 – $10,000 to remediate a Shopify website because it takes a very skilled and knowledgeable web developer to properly execute the various issues found in an audit.

I work with Zak from Hardage and Hardage, a Shopify customization boutique out of Austin, Texas to fulfill the remediation of Shopify stores.

Oh, and one note on the contractor who provided the audit: He would not stand behind it and referred the Shopify owner to his lawyer.

If the above scenario sounds familiar to you, you’re definitely not alone. This is very common. The tumultuous, asymmetric legal landscape has created a scenario where it’s like you just dumped a box of dominoes on the table and there are negative ripple effects all over the place.

Before you hire someone – no matter whether it seems like they’re charging enough (high price doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing), you’ll want to research ADA Website Compliance and accessibility because there is a lot to unravel.

I recommend you start with two of my articles: Lawsuit Website Accessibility and an Overview of ADA Website Compliance for 2020.

The ADA Book (written by me) is the best resource on preventing a lawsuit or demand letter.