The best time to start addressing accessibility is from your very first conversation with the client.
In developer parlance “shifting left” means performing testing and tasks typically done later in a development process to earlier steps. As a concept it’s typically meant to increase efficiency by ensuring you don’t spend too much time developing something that won’t pass muster at the end of a project.
Far too often web accessibility is addressed at the end of website projects, which leads to costly reworking of work you’ve already done. This is mostly why web accessibility work has a reputation for being costly and hard to get a client to pay for. Not because it is, but because of when it’s being discussed and performed.
Shift accessibility all the way to the first step
A vast majority of clients want an accessible website. The problem that many agencies encounter is that their clients seem unwilling to pay for it. This is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, however. Building a website is something almost anyone can do, but building a good website that fulfills real business objectives requires an expert.
In theory, most people hire an agency for their expertise. So, how you the agency, the expert, presents information tends to have an outsized impact on their opinions. When the expert/agency present accessibility as an “add-on” as opposed to a fundamental, inexorable consideration, this tells the client it’s something they can leave off to save money (who doesn’t want to save money). Accessibility is as critical to the client as you present it as.
But won’t that make me look expensive?
As our own expert’s research has shown when accessibility is addressed along the way as opposed to at the end of a web project, the cost is negligible. But, even coming in 5-10% over a competitor’s quote can be a concern. Giving a prospect the option to leave off the work that makes you more expensive can seem like a good way to ensure you get their business either way. What it really does, however, is frame the work as unnecessary and can result in an outcome no one wants: an inaccessible website.
The client doesn’t want an inaccessible website, and you don’t want to build one, so don’t make it an option.