What about past web projects?

As a web designer, I’ve become more and more aware of the importance of, and also the enforcement of, ADA web standards. Of course I believe that the better accessibility websites have, the better, but I’ll admit that I’ve become quite stressed over the extra work load/legal implications of not being compliant. Now knowing that law suits are on the rise over this, I can’t help but think about the dozens of websites I’ve built in the past that I didn’t put through ADA testing like I do now. Was hoping for your advice on this. We all can’t afford to go back to all our past clients and say we’ll get their site up to date for free, but also do we say “Your site might not be 100% compliant, so do you want to pay to have me check?”. What do you guys think?

PS This is my first post here, so please excuse (and let me know) if my approach here is somehow wrong.

You could certainly offer to update those older websites, but ultimately I’d consider it the responsibility of the site owners to make a call on this. (Not a legal opinion, of course!)

(Oh, welcome to the forums, by the way!)



As Ralph says, welcome to the forums :slight_smile:

IMO the responsibility lies with the site owner unless you have a contract stating otherwise.

I wouldn’t stress out about it too much. If any issues do ever arise for sites you actively maintain, as long as you acted in good faith in the first instance and offer to fix the issues in a timely manner, you should be good.

Saying that, this depends to some extent on the kind of sites you make. For example a local government website would need to adhere to accessibility standards more closely than a website for a restaurant or car showroom.

And don’t forget, time is money. I wouldn’t do anything for free for any site you have already handed over. You make yourself look cheap and slightly amateurish by offering your services for free.


Thank you for your insight!!

I’m glad to hear you’re considering questions like this! I too built plenty of inaccessible site over the years and regret not taking more time, even on my own, to make sure they were at least usable.

In the last couple of years the only time I’ve seen any conflict is when the developer claimed to build an accessible site or app and then did not. Clients might wish you told them about accessibility and expect you to know about it, but they also remember the tight budgets and timelines and most don’t have any unreasonable expectations. In just a few cases, I’ve seen client and agency split the cost of remediation, but it’s pretty rare. In fact, I’m betting in most cases your clients will appreciate a note alerting them to any issues and an offer to repair at a reasonable price. The a11y landscape changes often enough you can usually find something in the news to use a backdrop to your message. For example, there are many news articles related to the current waves of lawsuits hitting credit unions and small governments right now- just find a recent article, forward a link and say “I’d like approval for 10 hours to fix a few things”. For older sites, the increase in risk is a good reason to approach clients about building new site, especially if you have any non-responsive sites out there.

Otherwise, I’d recommending doing what you can as you have time and focus on any “blockers”. If you shared code across multiple sites, fix a component on one and then apply across others. For example if you use the same menu behaviors, write a patch and push it out. And then do the really easy stuff like adding a skip to main content link, lang attribute on the HTML element, and adding semantic regions.

Moving forward my advice to agencies and developers alike is to provide some level of education up front and having clients check a “no” box when they are unwilling to fund the small amount of extra effort to make sure everything works with assistive technology.

Good luck!


Fantastic advice, thank you Peter!!

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