In the year 2022, accessibility is slowly but surely becoming a baseline requirement for new website projects. Savvy businesses understand that prioritizing accessibility unlocks higher engagement and a better user experience for a significant portion of the population. And the number of private lawsuits (and demand letters) under the Americans with Disabilities Act against small and medium businesses continues to grow each year. But digital accessibility isn’t a core competency for the vast majority of digital and marketing agencies. Bringing in a white label accessibility partner can help agencies, designers, and developers bridge that gap, grow their accounts, and better serve and protect their existing clients.
What are white label accessibility services?
The term “white label” means bringing on a partner that can do work under your brand name. For example, an agency might have a core competency in UX and design and hire a more specialized agency to develop and build out the designs into websites. From the client’s perspective, your agency does all of the work and deserves all the credit.
Accessibility best practices are filtering into the broader digital world, but most designers, developers, and marketers are not accessibility specialists or experts. Bringing on a white label accessibility partner allows you to ensure that your clients’ websites are fully WCAG and ADA compliant out of the box. And we can also say from experience that most websites out there are not accessible. Being able to assess and remediate these websites for greater accessibility is a great way to bring in more business.
The benefits of white label accessibility
Accessible websites are better websites
Even if you set aside inclusion or civil rights law, there are substantial business benefits to having an accessible web presence. The CDC estimates that more than 25% of adults in the United States have some type of disability. Especially as the US population ages, websites that are usable and accessible for everyone have higher engagement and higher sales conversion rates. There is also evidence that websites following accessibility best practices perform better in Google’s Page Experience and search rankings.
Even for those clients that don't know to ask for accessibility, agencies have a responsibility to make sure the websites they build are as inclusive as possible. And their clients would be pleased to learn that their sites are usable for everyone and that they are not at risk for lawsuits under the ADA.
Reduce legal liability
The Department of Justice recently issued guidance on web accessibility and the ADA. But federal courts have interpreted the ADA as applying to websites as places of public accommodation for years. And the number of companies facing private lawsuits for inaccessible websites and mobile apps has grown nearly 100-fold over the past seven years. These lawsuits aren’t limited to big companies either; most demand letters are sent to small and medium sized businesses.
If your client is sued for violations of the ADA, you could bear some liability as well. Of course, this depends a lot on how you draft your contracts. But even if you’re free and clear legally, agencies can suffer reputational risk and lose business when they are associated with ADA violations.
Scale smart and quickly
When you bring on a white label accessibility partner, there is zero ramp up time. We think there is always value in training your team on accessibility. But compliance is not an area where you want to experiment on your customers. Instead, you can bring on someone to help and be effective from day one.
It’s also more cost effective
Access Armada does web accessibility all day every day. Specialization creates deeper expertise. At very large scales, it might make sense to hire a full-time accessibility manager. But most agencies focus primarily on web development, SEO, marketing, or social media. It’s more efficient to hire help when you need it and keep your payroll focused on your core competencies. It also frees you up to excel at what you do the best while still delivering better results for your client and reducing their compliance risk.
Let your partner handle overhead
Furthermore, your white label partner takes on the fixed costs of tools and subscriptions. For example, your web agency probably has invested in design software like Figma or Adobe XD, task management software like JIRA, repository management, and hosting. SEO agencies have their own subscriptions like Moz or Ahrefs. Similarly, accessibility specialists have their own monitoring services, screen reader subscriptions, and other infrastructure. Let them pay and amortize those costs rather than you.
Own your client relationship
Did we mention that you get all of the credit? All client communication runs through you. You have the discretion to share as much information about who is doing the work as you want. There’s no risk of a partner trying to poach your client. And white label partners are incentivized to provide the highest level of service because they know that you could have more such projects in the future.
Are there any downsides to white label accessibility?
There are some considerations you should weigh when considering whether to bring on a white label partner. Depending on your comfort level having the white label partner communicate directly with your client, there can be communication lags. If you need to pass on all questions to your accessibility partner and then personally share their response with the client, that can add on hours (if not days) to many exchanges. For larger engagements, it may be worth giving your white label partner direct access to the client (through your company email domain) to keep things moving.
In some cases, it can be easier to bring in an accessibility partner more transparently and allow them to communicate directly under their own company name. Of course, this requires strong contractual protections to ensure that your partner will not solicit an independent relationship with the client. But it does allow you to share accessibility expertise without having to worry about learning how to speak knowledgeably on the topic.
As with any subcontracting relationship, you also want to make sure that your white label partner has the capacity to take on your project and complete it within an agreed-upon timeline. Agency owners and managers know that every project involves some changes. Negotiating those adjustments with both a client and a partner does take a bit more effort.
The Disabled Access Credit
Your clients may not yet know that they need help with accessibility. But even companies that understand that digital accessibility is both valuable and necessary may need to find extra budget. Small businesses can claim a tax credit each year for 50% of their spending on accessibility (up to $10,000). These tax benefits can help stretch investments in accessibility much farther than they might have imagined.
Make sure to ask the right questions
Whether you are planning to build a brand new site the right way or need help bringing an existing website into compliance, an accessibility partner can help supplement your agency’s expertise. Especially if your agency is new to digital accessibility, it is important to consider how you would like to incorporate accessibility into your project processes. As you select a partner, make sure to ask questions to understand whether they’ll be a good fit and whether a white label relationship meets your needs.