How to find a good Service Provider for digital Accessibility

As I am often asked this question, today I would like to go into how you can find a competent service provider when it comes to accessible websites and accessible PDFs. Unfortunately, there are also Sammers.

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Accessibility is an issue like any other

First of all, you should proceed exactly as you would in any other area. That means: Ignore marketing bla-bla, check references and, above all, pay attention to concrete information. The more vague the information about accessibility is and the deeper the topic is buried on the website, the less important it seems to the service provider. You should also ask other institutions in your industry whether they have already had good experiences with a particular service provider.

It also makes sense to run an automated verification tool through the vendor's website or their PDF documents. Or alternatively to have a disabled person check the content. Mistakes can always happen. But if they accumulate, that's not a good sign. If you don't get your own content accessible, how can you do that with the content of others?

Note: Automatic test tools are only suitable for measuring accessibility to a limited extent. Here they are merely an indication of the professionalism of a service provider.

Provider structure in the DACH region

Regardless of the specific portfolio, four types of service providers or company structures can be distinguished in the DACH region:

  • Individual or micro-enterprises consisting of one person or individual freelancers
  • small agencies that have specialized in accessibility, in Germany these are agencies with maybe 10 to 15 employees
  • medium-sized or large full-service agencies that work in particular for the public sector and also offer accessibility
  • non-profit organizations

To my knowledge, there are no medium-sized or large agencies in the DACH region that deal exclusively with accessibility. It is also rare that a smaller service provider can cover both accessible websites and accessible PDF. Large full-service agencies with a focus on the public sector tend to do this.

In addition, there are of course countless freelancers, small and large companies that have accessibility as one of many topics in their portfolio. It is not possible to generally say or check to what extent they have mastered the subject.

There are also some non-profit organizations that offer accessibility services.

recognize expertise

There are many "hidden heroes", i.e. people who are a little under the radar of the public. You tend to find them in working groups and less at conferences. This also makes them quite difficult to find via a web search engine. Again and again I stumble across people who have been working in the field for years, are extremely knowledgeable and of whom I have never consciously heard before.

We would like to advise against service provider directories. As a rule, anyone can register without a quality control taking place. As described above, you should always look at their website and references.

The interesting question is whether the service provider was present at specialist conferences or whether he published - whether in public publications or on his own website. Technical publications can usually also be recognized without going deep into the subject.

There are also a number of questions you can ask service providers about accessibility. This includes:

  • How many projects have been implemented so far.
  • How many employees are specialized in accessibility, how do they train or stay up to date.
  • How is quality assurance of the results of a project carried out? (Test procedures, user tests, automatic checks, etc.
  • How are disabled people involved in tests.

If the answers remain vague, one must assume a lack of experience on the part of the service provider and should remove them from the closer selection.

Currently, there are mainly the IAAP certificates for accessibility as formal proof of expertise. However, these are not very common in Germany and are only given to individuals and not to organizations anyway. In my opinion, these certificates are not suitable as proof of qualification for accessibility.

Why I reject some potential customers

Of course, every service provider is also free to choose their customers themselves or to reject customers. The demand for accessibility expertise is currently quite high.

I have rejected clients multiple times in the past. If I was generally suitable for the job, the customer had realistic price expectations and I had resources, the main reasons were the following in descending order of importance:

  • Unreliability, i.e. content delivered too late, agreements or deadlines not kept
  • rude or inappropriate behavior, including calls outside normal office hours, unfriendly emails, lack of transparency, etc.
  • the job was not interesting for me
  • if it didn't fit personally

The first reason is quite common. Employees often don't understand that as a freelancer, you often plan your resources for weeks. If agreements are then not kept, you have nothing to do for a week and the next week is full. You often notice as soon as you make contact that someone is unreliable, for example if they don't keep agreed appointments or get back to you very late.

You have to put up with rough behavior or unrealistic expectations to a certain extent. But there are also limits here that the customer must have shown. For me, a lack of transparency starts when you don't communicate in a request that you are asking several service providers. Or if you are supposed to keep a certain appointment free and this appointment is not canceled even though you as a service provider have firmly scheduled it and the customer has decided otherwise.

Uninteresting jobs are activities that don't interest me at the moment or require a lot of unpaid training.

The last reason is rare. On a professional level, you have to be able to work together even if you don't like each other 100%. On the other hand, as a service provider, you sometimes have the luxury of being able to choose your customers. When in doubt, you tend to choose those who you find sympathetic or with whom you can work well.

Personally, I actually reject clients when they make an inquiry and have once turned down an offer from me. Customers are often not aware that creating offers also means work. Many clients also decline an offer after getting unpaid advice.

Of course, there can be many reasons why an offer was rejected. But often it is the price or doubts about the competence. This means that you would have no chance anyway and the request is of a purely formal nature. The customer has often already decided on a provider and only has to request further offers for the file.

Good cooperation is crucial

Last but not least, of course, the personal impression counts. In my opinion, this shouldn't be overestimated. However, if someone cannot adequately answer a specific question or provide an understandable explanation, cooperation becomes difficult.

It is also important that you get along well with each other, otherwise working together becomes difficult.

Feel free to ask for our services in digital accessibility.

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