Introducing Access Armada
Traditionally, in software programming, one of the simplest programs that you can write outputs the text “Hello, World!”. Beginning coders will learn how to output this greeting by way of introduction to a new language. In that spirit, I want to introduce Access Armada, a new digital agency focusing on web accessibility and ADA compliance for websites with special attention to helping businesses and organizations master the basics.
Accessibility should be accessible
Over the past five years, digital accessibility has received a big boost of attention as the number of ADA web accessibility lawsuits filed against private businesses of all sizes has skyrocketed. (And of course, this doesn’t take into account the unknown, but much larger, number of "surf-by" demand letters that lead to settlements out of court.)
This has really moved the needle! Many more companies are learning about web accessibility and their legal obligations under the ADA to make their site accessible to users of all abilities. This has been great for the existing accessibility industry, but their services are largely priced out of reach for a very significant portion of businesses that can’t budget five figures for an audit (which doesn’t account for the remediation costs of addressing the audit’s findings).
The accessibility industry is broken
Of course, the market for accessibility is still small (while growing rapidly); the vast majority of websites are not at all accessible and most designers and developers are not familiar with accessibility. Those site builders that are aware of accessibility don’t know how to implement it (or don’t consider it worth their time when their clients don’t insist on it). This remains true for businesses of all sizes, including some of the largest companies in the world. As a result, almost all accessibility agencies focus on correcting or remediating existing sites after they are built.
The established players in the accessibility industry aren’t ripping anyone off. But the legal compliance context that drives most accessibility spending means that historically the primary customers have been larger organizations with the least tolerance for legal or reputational risk. The audit-focused accessibility agencies deliver a premium product for the high-end market, which is priced accordingly. My contacts at digital agencies and small businesses have reported that most accessibility consultants and agencies are not willing to contract for more targeted audits to match their budgets.
Automation is cheap but ineffective
A new crop of services have popped up with the promise of automating web accessibility. You will frequently find the most prominent examples, like Accessibe and Userway, in the ads at the top of your Google searches on any accessibility-related topic. Their pitch is that you can add one line of code to your site, pay them a low monthly fee, and they’ll take care of the rest. Several of these products claim to use artificial intelligence, but all guarantee that your site will be fully compliant with the accepted accessibility standards (WCAG 2.1 AA) and safe from lawsuits filed under the ADA. Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where it sounds too good to be true. Already, multiple lawsuits filed in federal courts have targeted companies using automated accessibility overlays on their websites; some of these complaints included instances where the automated accessibility introduced new accessibility issues!
Small to midsize businesses need reliable and affordable accessibility help
Our goal at Access Armada is to work with businesses that can’t afford to experiment with affordable services that just don’t work, but want to find efficient and cost-effective ways to make their websites accessible. We know that different organizations have different needs and priorities and we build custom strategies tailored to each one.
We recognize that making a website more accessible is better than less! While we work with you towards full accessibility, we can help you immediately reduce your legal risk and improve your site’s user experience by targeting the highest impact changes. And we offer plans to help you make sure that your site remains accessible in the long term within your digital budget.
Free accessibility strategy sessions
We don’t usually need a comprehensive audit to understand where you should initially focus your accessibility efforts. Part of our role in the accessibility ecosystem is to educate people on why accessibility is important and how to proceed on your accessibility journey. While we plan to do plenty of that on our blog, we know that the advice you need is often specific to your situation. We offer free strategy sessions, where we will investigate your site and share our insights on a prioritization strategy; while we would love for you to work with us, this isn’t just a sales pitch. You can take these insights and shop them around to another agency or bring them back to your in-house developer.
We’re excited to get started!
Our approach to accessibility is a bit different than the other industry players and doing something unique is always a bit of a risk. We appreciate the trust that you put in us and we don’t intend to let you down. Our goal is to help build a more accessible web, one site at a time. And we’re excited to get down to business.