I’ve historically been very critical of the various Business Case arguments for accessibility given their lack of actual evidence. There’s one business case argument that I think is rock solid: The cost of remediation.
The cost of remediation actually has two faces: The actual time-on-task it takes to fix issues, of course, but also the lost opportunity dollars that come from development staff time being diverted to bug fixes rather than being spent on new features. We’ll skip past the opportunity cost for now because the actual remediation cost is enough to get our point across anyway.
average cost per defect = ((number of devs * number of hours ) * fully loaded dev cost per hour) / total bugs to be fixed
The above gives us the average cost per defect. It is mostly dependent on two factors: time to fix the average bug and the number of bugs fixed. The fewer bugs fixed will raise the cost-per-bug, as the typical case is that developers can (and will) be able to fix multiple bugs of the same type rather quickly. But there’s no getting away from the fact that the more bugs to fix, the more money it will cost.
So what’s the cost? That depends a lot on how accessible you are starting off! Across 800,000 tested URLs, Tenon.io has logged an average of 42 accessibility issues per page. This number is statistically significant and automatically-testable accessibility issues don’t make up the entirety of possible issues. This indicates that the full sitewide remediation of all issues could be very expensive and time consuming. In fact, the $100,000 number in this post’s title isn’t made-up. It is actually an estimate of the cost to fix bugs on a project I’ve worked on.
Of course, there’s the option of not fixing the bugs. There may be instances where, through effective prioritization, we decide not to fix some issues. The overall truth remains that avoiding the bugs in the first place is by far the cheapest. The ROI argument here is easy: how many bugs we can/ should avoid, what are their costs to fix and – while we’re at it – what amount of Risk are we avoiding?
Doing it right the first time has instant ROI.