Paying For Automated Website Accessibility Scans Doesn’t Make Sense
If you think about it, for public-facing websites, buying a premium accessibility scan doesn’t make sense.
As we all know, scans or “ADA website checkers” are limited.
They can only flag 20–25% of issues under WCAG 2.1 AA success criteria.
And any issues that are flagged still need to be manually reviewed.
And just because an issue is flagged, it doesn’t mean that issues of the same kind don’t exist. In other words, scans commonly have false negatives, not returning an issue when one exists — and this is for accessibility issues that are “caught”, in theory.
But so what?
Scans are still very useful tools.
They instantly flag some of the most critical accessibility issues, several of which are named in litigation as the basis for discrimination.
Also, the experts behind manual audits use scans to find issues and check their work.
Two of the most popular free scans are WAVE by WebAim and Axe-Core by Deque.
Google Lighthouse is also well known and operates as a more basic, simplistic version of Axe-Core.
And, of course, there are a wide array of other free “scanners” available.
Nearly all scans are free for single page use.
The Case for Premium Scans
There are a number of agencies that dip their toes into the website accessibility space, but stop short of any sort of any manual work.
Monsido, SiteImprove, CrownPeak, and SilkTide are all-in-one type agencies that offer a somewhat ambiguous cloud of products and services such as SEO, website security, and, as it pertains to us, accessibility.
Their accessibility offering seemingly revolves around premium automated scans and nice looking reports.
Premium scans enable you to scan pages at scale.
So rather than scanning one page at a time, you can get results for 20 pages.
You can even customize and sort the results.
Let’s say I just want to focus in on only WCAG conformance level A issues — I can do that; I can get a report on all of the single A issues for my entire website.
And you’ll get explanations for each issue.
And you can even chart your progress over time.
Here, I’ll save you the sales demo: you can twist and turn, slice and dice, and customize the scan results in whatever way possible through automation.
The Problem with Scans
The problem is this entire suite of software, customizable results, and great looking PDFs is of marginal benefit, at best.
How many pages of your website can your team effectively remediate at once?
One. Maybe two?
If the changes apply sitewide, my point remains: You’re only changing one thing at a time and it’s based on issues found from a single page, the primary page template.
So all you really need is a single page scan; this is the most your team can handle.
If you have 50 developers ready and eager to attack accessibility issues, you can assign each a URL to scan and tell them to use WAVE.
And for prioritization, start with the level A issues.
The Best Case for Scans
The strongest case for a scan is if you need to scan pages that require authentication.
In this scenario, I can see a scan having premium value.
However, even among paid scans, many don’t offer this feature.
There are many things worth paying for in accessibility: manual audits, manual remediation, support, user testing, and training.
Unless you have a unique set of circumstances, you can get all of the upside from automated scans for free.
There’s no need to pay.