So you want to be ADA compliant; now what?
If you’re reading this, you’re likely a client who has emailed us about the hot topic of 2020: ADA & Accessibility. It’s likely that back March/April you read about the recent happenings in blogland regarding a large blogger (not a client of ours) who got hit with a lawsuit and you are now understandably worried about your own site’s compliance (sidenote: that lawsuit ultimately got dropped & information regarding the exact claims have not been released).
Fun stuff, right? Nothing like mass panic, during isolation, to keep the spirits high, eh? ?
This new industry standard was thrust upon all of us theme creators in this niche, just as it was you, so we wanted to write this post to help you better understand our role in this and to reassure you that we’re all in this together.
An Important Note
As with all things in running an online blogging business, things change extremely fast. Google changes (on the daily), mobile requirements change as new devices are released, ads change…it all changes. And quickly.
While many of these changes are for the better, we do know that having to constantly invest time & money into keeping up with these changes is exhausting and frustrating. Trust us, they’re not fun for us either. We’d too much rather live in the blissful world of not having to keep up with it all, but unfortunately that’s just not the nature of this industry.
What We Are Doing To Evolve
As the blogging industry has demanded this new standard, we have spent hundreds of hours, since May, consulting and learning more about Accessibility & WCAG guidelines so that we can better serve our clients moving forward. While we can never legally guarantee compliance, we are making best efforts to help our clients achieve these standards in our themes.
That said, please know that what we do to your theme itself is only one part of what accessibility entails. Things like how you structure & write your posts, label your ALT tags, set up video captioning, etc, ALL play a major role in a compliant website. Not to mention things like ads (a big one you’ll see flagged in audits) and outside plugins that we don’t have control over.
All in all, there are many aspects to accessibility, much of which falls outside of our hands as your designer & developer.
So is my theme broken/outdated?
We are going to be honest with you here. We realize that when you get back an audit with “critical” changes, it’s your first thought to assume that your theme was done “wrong”. But we want to assure you that this is not the case. In fact, many things were actually done with accessibility in mind when your theme was built; just not the extent the industry is demanding today.
Just like mobile wasn’t a big “requirement” in blogging 5 years ago, neither was accessibility in blogging even 1 year ago. Yes it existed, but it was mainly geared towards governmental websites and hadn’t made its way into blogging until recently. The items that are coming up on these audits are the same issues that are showing up for ALL the theme creators in our niche (and across the entire web across all industries). It’s not just limited to us, nor should these audits be an indicator of your theme’s quality. We stand by the high-level code of our themes and want you to understand that the changes the audits are asking of you are suggestions and requirements for a very specific law.
A standard of code that of which isn’t yet widely implemented across the web. Even on huge sites like www.bhg.com you’ll find these flagged errors. And we don’t say that to dismiss your concern (as we agree it’s something to take seriously!), but to remind you that the entire web is in this together. Accessibility is not a magic wand, but something to work towards as we strive for a more inclusive web.
So I have to pay for these changes?
Just as we wouldn’t be able to sustain a business by updating themes for mobile-responsiveness that we launched 5+ years for free, we unfortunately can’t do the same for accessibility changes as the industry evolves.
Pretend your home was built in 1980 and you have an inspector come in to see how things are holding up. They give you a list of 50 things that are no longer up to code per 2020 standards. It’s not like it was built “wrong” in 1980, it’s that industry standards have changed as new laws have taken place.
It’s the same thing. Unfortunately in the online world, these standards move at a much quicker pace.
We appreciate our clients who value our time and expertise and understand that this is a cost of maintaining an ever-changing online business.
I’m a client that launched prior to May 2021 & recently had an audit done. Can you help me make the fixes ASAP?
We’re going to be honest (again). This industry shift has taken a large toll on our workflow, work/life balance, and stress levels this year. Not to mention its impact on delayed project timelines, as we had to make a large number of last-minute fixes right as projects were about to launch. We’ve spent months consulting and researching to ensure we can serve our clients in the best way possible moving forward. We feel confident that we are well equipped on this topic moving forward, but we cannot accommodate all urgent requests.
If you’ve already sent us your audit, we are happy to review it but will need up to 7 business days to go through it and respond to you (those suckers are long!). At which time we will let you know if these fixes are ones we can help you make or if we think you’ll be better off hiring a ADA remediation service.
If it is a project we can take on, all fixes will be billed at our hourly rate of $150. Note that many projects are averaging 10-15 hours of remediation (can be less if there are minimal color/font changes and/or if you have sent us a shorter list of “higher priority changes). Regardless, we may need up to 4-6 weeks to implement these changes as they take a great deal of implementation and review time. If you wish to have these changes made sooner, we suggest working with the company that did your audit or reaching out to https://bhmbizsites.com. If going this route, Melissa would be happy to “approve” their color change suggestions at no additional cost.
Lastly, if it’s not a project we can take on, we appreciate your understanding (and please don’t take it personally!). We continually & tirelessly strive to support our clients in any possible way we can, but if there’s anything we learned in 2020, it’s that sometimes we can serve you better by letting someone else take the reins on something we cannot give our full attention to.