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There are many features crucial to making an excellent eCommerce experience for consumers. But one of the essential features that could make or break a users’ experience: is accessibility. 

Recently, businesses have been challenged on accessibility standards, which can be a pricey mistake. In 2020 alone, 2,523 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III lawsuits were filed in the United States related to digital accessibility.

There are many guidelines in place that can aid in helping businesses understand web accessibility. These are called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Abiding by these guidelines can help businesses address the needs of those with visual, auditory, speech, cognitive, and physical disabilities. It is crucial to be accessible to all, full stop. Online inclusion opens up doors to more customers and emboldens a brand’s reputation. Unfortunately, some companies have been overlooking this necessary inclusion. However, most businesses have slowly been integrating more accessibility features into their eCommerce.

Aditya Bikkani, CEO of AdvancedBytez, a disability tech company, has instilled this checklist into his eCommerce planning to ensure all accessibility measures are met: 

  • Perceivable Content – your eCommerce store’s content should be easily perceivable for people with disabilities. For example, people with visual impairment use a screen reader to perceive the content of your store. A screen reader cannot perceive non-text content, but non-text content matters a lot for eCommerce stores. So what you can do is add alt text wherever non-text content is present. 
  • Understandable – your online store design and content should be easily understandable. A simple user interface that is interactive as well as understandable for people with disabilities is what eCommerce stores should aim for. 
  • Easily operable – If your online store is easily operable, it would mean that everyone can function with it, with or without any disability. For example, your website design should be flexible enough to support navigation through the keyboard. Furthermore, if there are any CTAs, you must add a link description text that clearly explains the purpose of the CTA. 
  • Robust – The content within your eCommerce website should be easily interpreted by users with disabilities. It should be robust enough so that assistive technologies like screen readers can interpret it without any challenges. 

It’s important to note that there is a wide range of accessibility support features beyond the ones listed, but it works as a general starting point checklist. For businesses, it’s crucial at this point to implement accessibility features if they want to continue to be successful. 

People with disabilities are the world’s largest minority group. In the US alone, that demographic has an estimated $490 billion in disposable income, but people with disabilities have been directing their online purchasing pursuits to a handful of companies that actually meet their needs. 

Moreover, the Baymard Institute’s research spent 4,400 hours researching accessibility principles in regard to the eCommerce sector, releasing a new research study on the accessibility of modern-day eCommerce sites.

According to the numbers, the majority of eCommerce sites are mostly lacking. 94% of sites are noncompliant with 4 basic accessibility requirements; images, links, form fields, and keyboard navigation.

This is a huge opportunity for companies to check their accessibility measures, and to improve them thus building up a more trustworthy repertoire amongst disabled consumers. It is important for disabled folks to have the same access to everything as non-disabled people, and it can easily begin with eCommerce.

The graph that the Baymard Institute provides shows interestingly enough, many of these eCommerce websites are some of the most widely used by the most popular brands. A lot of these mistakes can be attributed to images. Many images that these brands use are noncompliant with accessibility standards.

For images that act as links, like a t-shirt representing a clothes section, 48% of benchmarked sites either have entirely missing descriptive labels (which should tell users where image links will take them) or have incomplete descriptions.

In addition, photos that are used to convey information, like product images explaining the features of a product, 54% of sites have images missing labels or have labels that do not adequately describe the contents of the image.

These examples barely begin to scratch the surface. 73% of eCommerce websites have compliance issues with linking, 58% have compliance issues with form fields, and 64% have keyboard navigation compliance problems. And this is just from one isolated study. The number of inaccessible eCommerce sites on the smaller side that most likely slip through the cracks when it comes to accessibility compliance is staggering. 

At this point, there isn’t any good reason for eCommerce brands to be incompatible with accessibility standards. Millions of disabled folks exist and deserve to have seamless experiences when they choose eCommerce instead of physical retail, which could be challenging in its own right. 

More lawsuits have popped up over the past few years involving eCommerce accessibility issues. These suits could be avoided by ensuring that the teams that create these massive shopping experiences online take into account the sheer volume of disabled people that could access their sites. The resources are out there, and it’s now up to large brands to set an example that trickles down to the smallest eCommerce sites.

Photo by Zyroon Unsplash