Website ADA Compliance for E-commerce Sites

A vision-impaired customer with a full cart goes to check out of your e-commerce site. However, they can’t because your form fields have no labels for their screen reader. They’re forced to abandon their cart and cost you a sale. They might then give your store a bad review, or worse, sue you. This disastrous scenario can happen if your e-commerce site is non-ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

The solution is to make your e-commerce site accessible. By having a website accessibility audit performed, non-compliant elements can be identified and remediated. Not only will this help ensure all visitors to your site have an equal shopping experience, but you’ll avoid a possible lawsuit also.

Do E-Commerce Websites Have to be Accessible?

If you don’t have a physical store, you may think ADA compliance doesn’t apply to your e-commerce website. Yet successful lawsuits have been filed against e-commerce websites too.

One of those targeted e-commerce websites raised eyebrows because it was the home delivery meal kit company Blue Apron. At the time of the lawsuit, Blue Apron only offered its meals online. It still got sued. The court refused the company’s motion to dismiss the claim, continuing a legal trend of ruling in favor of disabled plaintiffs.

Once again, the courts showed they believe websites should be ADA compliant. This has caused a major rise in the number of lawsuits for website non-compliance. Plaintiff law firms crawl websites looking for missing or incorrect elements. Making sure your site is accessible will protect you from being named in one of these expensive and stressful lawsuits. 

From a business point of view, an accessible e-commerce website makes itself available to about 61 million potential new customers. According to the CDC, that’s the number of Americans currently living with a disability. And that number is expected to keep growing as our population ages.

Imagine that many potential new customers during the holiday shopping season. If you had a brick-and-mortar store, would you close your doors to them? Why would you do that via your e-commerce site?

What Does Compliance Require?

No specific law answers this question. Instead, the World Wide Web Consortium, which is universally recognized as the source for website accessibility standards created Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Today, WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 Level A and AA guidelines are used to measure a website’s ADA compliance.

WCAG accessibility for disabled users is based on four core fundamentals, also known as POUR:

Perceivable – Users should be able to perceive all of the elements and information on the website with at least one of their five senses.

Operable – The user interface must be operable to those with disabilities. They should be able to navigate a site without any issues.

Understandable – Operating the user interface and information on the site must be understandable for all visitors.

Robust – Disabled users must be able to access all of the content on your website through a variety of assistive technologies.

By following the WCAG guidelines and principles, people with different types of disabilities and assistive technologies will be able to access your e-commerce website. Note that compliance must be complete, meaning every page and every element on your e-commerce site must be 100% compliant.

Testing Your E-Commerce Website for Accessibility

How Often Should You Audit Your E-Commerce Website? It depends.

Many e-commerce websites update their inventory regularly. If that describes your site, you’ll want to schedule a complete audit of every page that has been changed. You can do this every quarter. If your e-commerce website remains relatively static, one audit a year should be good.

One note, if you recently revamped your e-commerce site, have a website accessibility audit done. Often, accessibility issues come up when developers or website designers unknowingly add elements that aren’t compliant. This can happen because they aren’t up to date or simply don’t know about the accessibility guidelines.

Do You Own an E-Commerce Site? Here’s Where You Should Start.

We can help by performing a manual audit of each page to identify all non-compliance issues on your e-commerce site. If a developer maintains your site, we will provide them with the information they need to fix these issues. If you don’t have a developer, that’s not a problem. we can remediate all of the issues our in-depth audit finds. When we’re done, you’ll have a WCAG compliant website that welcomes all customers.

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