Accessible Agency: Selling Accessibility to Current Clients

28 Mar 2023

Accessible Agency is an ongoing series by Accessible Web discussing offering web accessibility services as an agency.

In 2010 I was tasked with creating a “digital marketing” department at an agency in Central Florida. Among these digital services, mobile-friendly sites and SEO proved to be the most lucrative initially, so I wanted to start pitching them to our existing clients. The concern in the office initially was “isn’t this sort of admitting to them we didn’t build their website right in the first place?” To be fair, the question did come up a lot from clients. But, after a while, I found myself driving the conversation toward that question rather than away from it. It started a discussion worth having that typically left both parties better off as a result.

Putting your head in the sand doesn’t help

At Accessible Web, we regularly speak with agencies struggling with this same dilemma in 2023 around web accessibility and their existing clients. It’s easy and beneficial to sell accessibility services to prospects, but there is a lot more hesitancy around going to a client you built a website for and informing them their website is anything less than perfect.

Just like it was a bad idea to ignore SEO in 2007 or responsive web design in 2010 and hope it goes away, it’s a similar mistake to ignore web accessibility in 2023. Not only are you ignoring a substantial bit of revenue, the legal ramifications of not having an accessible website are becoming more severe and widespread with the number of lawsuits in the US skyrocketing over the past few years.

Face accessibility head-on with the right approach

While it’s well understood that accessibility overlays are neither helpful nor protect your clients from legal action, we still see agencies slapping them on websites. UsableNet’s 2022 ADA Digital Accessibility Lawsuit reports “Businesses using accessibility widgets received 575 lawsuits, a 36% increase from 2021. Many of these lawsuits also list the widget features as a barrier to equal access in addition to WCAG violations and other user web barriers.” On top of this, reselling accessibility widgets isn’t going to change an agency’s financial picture in any material way.

Addressing web accessibility, the right way can, however. Just like with SEO and responsive web design, there are no automated solutions here or coming any time soon. Remediating websites can result in loads of billable project work and maintaining and monitoring accessibility on an active website is great recurring revenue. Yes, this takes some training and isn’t just installing a single line of code, but Accessible Web has your back. Our Agency Partner Program exists to provide you with the tools, training, and outsourcing your agency needs to get in the game.

Begin the conversation with your clients immediately

The best time to start a conversation with your clients is today. If they aren’t already, any client with a website is going to start feeling pressure to make their websites and web applications accessible. If it’s not a demand letter from an attorney, it’s often times upset customers, and increasingly it’s becoming a requirement to sell any kind of large business or government agency.

Like any important trend, it’s best to educate your client early and often about it. When it comes time for a client to act, and they haven’t heard from you, it’s a lot harder to make a case that you’re the best professional resource for the job. In fact, one of the most common reasons agencies contact us for help is that they recently lost a client, or are about to, because web accessibility wasn’t part of their service offering. It’s always best to get ahead of the inevitable.