Accessibility has been garnering interest for the last 5 years – and it isn’t stopping soon. Everywhere in the digital world, people are adapting their presence (website, social media, forums, etc.) to include a wider range of audiences and lending a helping hand to people who were earlier ignored.
Think of the time when all stores had to install ramps for wheelchair access, similarly, now there is a need to make all online e-commerce websites accessible to a range of differently abled visitors. It involves including people with a wide range of barriers to access – permanent, temporary or situational. People included range from completely blind, color-blind to low vision. Of course, it does not only involve visual states, but also people who are deaf, have mobility impairments and even cognitive impairments.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990. It prohibits discrimination against anyone based on ability or disability. Under the ADA, web content should be accessible to blind users, deaf users and those who must navigate by voice, screen readers or other assistive technologies. Failure to do so can result in a hefty lawsuit.
In fact, in August of 2021, ADA lawsuits were on course to reach the highest ever recorded number. We are now in 2022, and it will come as no surprise when this prediction proves true.
Not only can these lawsuits cost your business thousands of dollars, but they also make your company look careless and irresponsible.
Let’s take a look at four additional reasons ADA compliance is necessary for your ecommerce store:
It Increases the Number of Potential Customers for Your Store
The most obvious benefit of including everyone in your user pool and making sure a wide range of visitors can access your site is that the more people that can use your website, the more people can convert and actually buy something. It’s the easiest way to grow your presence – and actually cater to people that have the intent to buy, but are being blocked by lack of access.
In the world, it is estimated that over 650 million people have a disability and some say it is as high as 15% of the global population. This user group has a purchasing power of up to 175 billion dollars. Just having a website that is accessible to them opens up to a greater market share of these users — and at the end of the day, it also improves the experience for current users as well.
It Develops Customer Trust and Increases Brand Calue
Trust is one of the biggest aspects of what makes a customer choose to engage with a business. Trust comes with a company being consistent and understanding, which is reflected in the way the platform relates to their users. This can be exhibited by being there for users that have different abilities as well – and score brownie points with your users.
Today, seven in ten US Millennials actively consider company values when making a purchase — compared with 52% of all US online adults. Many company core values include words like inclusive, empathetic, understanding, etc. So the real question is – how can one have a company motto or core values that revolve around inclusivity and at the same time potentially exclude a significant portion of the population of people who want to do business with your company? Walk the talk!
It Keeps Your Business Safe From Legal Risk and Customer Dissatisfaction
Trust once created can also be broken. A lot of legal cases and customer outrage have involved accessibility in the recent years. In an iconic case, a student at the University of California-Berkeley (president of the California Association of Blind Students), sued Target for having a website that was inaccessible to blind users. Supported by the National Federation of the Blind, Target had to pay 6 million dollars in eventual settlement and continue to collaborate with the NFB to ensure accessibility. The suit is used to spotlight many corporate sites that don’t play well — if at all — with screen reading technology, and is widely referenced even today.
It Keeps Innovation Going
By embracing accessibility and inclusive design practices, many organizations are able to reach new innovations as a valuable byproduct. People have found that designing with a more diverse group of people in mind results in better overall creations and new ideas that apply to all users. There are many everyday examples: capabilities like screen magnification, captions, and voice control are in regular use by the public without people thinking of them as purely accessibility features.
The largest companies have understood this and deemed accessibility to be a basic human right. They drive their products to be better and more human. Microsoft has found success in recent years thanks to an increased focus on accessibility and has integrated this into their marketing as well. Google also has innovation in the area of not just natural language processing, but non-language processing, a way to process sounds and intonations — a way to benefit the hearing-impaired. Apple, too, is not far behind in pioneering braille access and other accessibility measures into their products.
It is essential for ecommerce platforms to have accessible designs. But how does one make sure their website is accessible? One thing to do is to understand the ADA compliance guidelines and follow them in the next redesign. You can also outsource your efforts to platforms that handle end-to-end accessibility for your platform.
There is no question that accessibility is the way forward for each platform today.