Staffing accessibility — Consultants vs. employees

It’s a complicated decision, here are the factors to look at to decide which route is right for your organization

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Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash


By employing a dedicated accessibility team, an organization will have dedicated resources at their disposal who can be integrated tightly with all segments of the organization including design, development/IT, QA, training, diversity & inclusion, HR, and procurement.


There is a role that contractors can play in a smoothly running accessibility organization.

  • you may be in an area where employees are hard to find (though you should consider remote employment as a possibility)
  • you may have a fixed number of full time employees/consultants but want the flexibility of being able to “surge” if your release calendar has peaks and valleys. This is especially true for tech companies that have annual conferences (such as VMware) or companies whose business naturally has a month where a lot of stuff happens (think April for TurboTax, June for real-estate, or December for vacation related business in North America).

Individual Contractors

Individual accessibility contractors are worth considering, with the understanding that they are the highest risk approach to accessibility testing for a number of reasons.

  1. Make sure you check references for individual contractors as carefully as you would for an employee. They are a single point of failure when they are an individual contractor when it comes either to knowledge or availability.

Contracting Agencies

Contracting agencies are lower risk than individual contractors, but are also correspondingly more expensive.

  • Contracting agencies typically are insured, where many individual contractors won’t be.
  • Agencies will have additional staff to substitute should your normal person not be available. That being said, moving from person to person ends up costing more because of the need to pay for redundant knowledge ramp up.

Overseas Contractors

Accessibility testers from established overseas contracting agencies can be found for as little as $20-$25 an hour. If cost is of paramount importance to you, that could be a good way to go. But there are a lot of headaches associated with overseas contracting including:

  • Time zone differences
  • Privacy and security for pre-release code
  • Establishing test environments
  • Facilitating conversations between the testers and design/development teams
  • And last but certainly NOT least, finding people with experience with American regulations and attitudes towards disability

Crowd Sourcing

Crowd sourcing is a relatively new but up-and-coming approach to accessibility testing. Crowd source testing agencies identify users with disabilities and provide services on demand. Typically, the crowd source testing agency provides project management assistance to:

  • identify the testers qualified to perform the tests per the contracting organization’s specifications
  • assign out modules to test
  • remove duplicate defects from the results, and
  • provide a single report back to the contracting organization
  • lower network bandwidth, since people with disabilities testing from home are less likely to have blazingly fast internet
  • older devices, because people with disabilities frequently use less expensive devices and hold onto them longer

Blogger, disability advocate, nerd. Bringing the fire on ableism. A11y Architect @ VMware. Wheelchair user w/ a deaf daughter. CS, Law, and Business background

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