Building accessible websites: What not to do

And another call comes in. They all seem to be the same lately.

Caller: Hi, I was referred to you by a mutual colleague. I /our agency recently built a website and it’s ready to launch. We discovered that we needed the site to conform to AA web accessibility standards. Can you check the site for us and tell me what would it take to make it comply?


Chocolate Chips and cookiesMe: It’s always best to put the chocolate chips in the cookie before baking them (shout out to Billy Gregory for that gem).

Caller: (nervous chuckle) Good analogy.


Me: Have you done anything around accessibility with this site?

Caller: No, but we ran it through a few tests and know there are issues that need to be fixed. Can you help?


Me: Let me try a really quick check by trying to tab through the website. What’s the address?



Senior with glasses making an on-line purchase by credit cardMe: (After trying to tab through) Not good. You can’t tab through the nav which means the navigation has to be fixed. And I have no idea where I am on the page. Needs a bit of work to make this accessible.

Caller: Oh boy.


Me: I see it was built on a purchased theme.

Caller: Yes, the client liked the look of it.


Me: Doesn’t look like it’s accessible.

Caller: We didn’t think of it at the time.


Me: Any PDFs on the website?

Caller: Yes: Do they have to be made accessible too?


Me: Yes

Caller: (silence as they register the information)


Me: Although we charge for accessibility audits, why don’t we take a quick look and provide a very general estimate on what we think it’s going to cost? Our experience though is that fixing after the fact is in the range of 30% of the original development cost, excluding PDFs.

Caller: That would be appreciated.  I’ll let my client know.


The lesson? Web accessibility is always cheaper – and easier – to implement when it’s built into the process. WordPress themes aren’t nessessarily accessible. Custom built accessible templates are the way to go if you want to control the look, the performance and the accessibility.

Also consider culling the number of PDFs on your site. Many can be changed to HTML, but there are always documents that are better and more practical as PDFs. Those are the ones you make accessible.

If you are a developer or agency and don’t know about accessibility, know that it’s not hard. You just need to build it into the process.

If your goal is an accessible website, bring in someone like CMS Web Solutions that knows accessibility and can guide you during the build. It will be much cheaper in the long run and eventually you will learn what needs to be done so you can do it yourself for your next project.