Web Accessibility Decisions: Remediate vs. Start Over

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Your Site Has Accessibility Issues

Maybe you’ve had an accessibility audit or maybe you just know your site has accessibility issues, and now you’re faced with the decision: should you pursue accessibility remediation to fix what you have, or should you just start over with a new site? This can be a complex decision, and this post will give you some factors to consider in choosing what to do.

Depending on how many accessibility issues are involved and how extensive they are, it may be more cost effective to start over with a fresh and accessible design than to painstakingly remediate (fix) all the technical issues in your current site.

For lower budget or hobby site owners “starting over” will mean buying a new “accessibility ready” theme (or finding one for free in the wordpress.org repository!) and configuring it. For most businesses, this means working with a knowledgeable developer or agency to create a whole new site.

Factors to Consider

Either way, time and costs are involved. Here are some things to consider when making your decision:

  • “Starting over” won’t help you with content related issues IF you are simply importing content. If your images don’t have alt descriptions now, importing them into a new site won’t help. Starting over makes more sense when there are large numbers of technical issues (or fewer but more complex issues) on your site, especially issues related to your theme or plugins. Content issues (alt text on imagesheadings properly nested) will have to be dealt with page by page, whether that’s in your current site or a new site.
  • Sometimes, trying to “retrofit” a site for accessibility involves lots of “workarounds” in the code, which may leave the site more prone to update conflicts or stability issues going forward. A site built from the ground up as accessible will usually be a stronger, more stable site than a retrofitted one. If you already have some issues on your website that make it less stable (or your site is mission-critical and needs to be as stable as possible), it may make sense not to add to those issues by remediating the theme.
  • Generally speaking, the design of a website “lasts” for 3-5 years before it starts looking dated and/or the content structures are no longer effective since the business has grown and changed over that time period AND web-related marketing has changed too. You definitely don’t want to pay for a bunch of remediations now, and then turn around in 12-18 months to pay for a new site design.
    • A good rule of thumb is: the further you are past the half-way point in the life-cycle of your current design, the more likely it is that it will be more cost-effective to simply “start over” with a new design, doing the redesign a little earlier than anticipated but getting a new site that will last you 3-5 years going forward.
  • If you qualify (US company, less than 30 employees OR less than $1M in revenue), you can get a non-refundable tax credit of up to $5,000 for expenses related to making your website accessible. Information on the Disabled Access Credit can be found here.
  • Remember, getting a new accessible site will help you start fresh, but you will still need to learn and implement accessible content any time you make content changes to your site. This may involve getting training for your content management staff.

Keep Making Progress

Figuring out what to do about the accessibility issues on your website can be difficult. There are lots of things to balance and weigh. Just don’t let this hard decision keep you from taking action – there are too many great benefits to making your website accessible.

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