ADA Compliance and Your eCommerce Site

Using the internet with disabilities is no easy feat, and the law agrees. Just this year, hundreds of eCommerce companies have been hit with lawsuits claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because people with impairments were unable to access or effectively use sites across the internet.

In fact, more than 10,000 ADA compliance website lawsuits affected companies large and small over a wide range of industries in 2018. With so many different people using your website with a variety of browsers and devices, being accessible and compliant isn’t just the nice thing to do for your users; it’s the right, and the legal thing to do.

What is ADA compliance?

When you think of ADA compliance, you probably think of making sure your building is wheelchair accessible, or other structural changes like lifts and cut curbs. But in 2010, ADA Standards for Accessible Design was published, requiring that websites be accessible to everyone, including people who are visually impaired, hearing impaired, illiterate, or have a learning disability. With the additions to the ADA, new requirements were put in place for how to cater to all customers who visit your site, including requiring sites to be accessible by screen readers.

Many people with visual impairments use a screen reader to use the internet. Screen readers interact with a website by conveying to the user the contents of your site through text-to-speech and sound icons. The keyboard is used to navigate the site rather than a mouse, which requires visual cues. If your eCommerce site can’t be read by these devices, you’re losing out on potential customers, and you’re in violation of the ADA.

Read more about screen readers here.

Why does my eCommerce website need to be ADA compliant?

When a person with a disability arrives at your eCommerce site, they should be able to navigate easily enough to browse the site, contact you, or maybe even buy something. eCommerce sites require tons of interaction, with buttons to click, things to read, and information to enter, even more than an informative website would.

Beyond just avoiding lawsuits, if a person can’t navigate your site easily, they’ll probably just move on to your competitors. 19% of the population has a disability, so making your site ADA compliant may help your reputation, as well as helping you access thousands of new customers.

How can you ensure your website is ADA compliant?

When a visually impaired person tries to access a site that is not ADA compliant, they will probably run into trouble as soon as their screen reader tries to read the pictures on the site. If your images don’t have any captions or code behind them to explain what’s in the picture, called alt-text, your site is not ADA compliant.

The first step in becoming ADA compliant is to figure out all the aspects of the law and how they apply to your site. While lack of alt-text is one of the most common problems cited in lawsuits, making sure your site is accessible requires fixing all the issues people with disabilities may come across. For example, certain disabilities require the site to have full keyboard accessibility, so your site can be read by people who cannot use a mouse. Other violations of the ADA involve color contrast, so that colorblind people can see all parts of the site. The ADA even includes provisions banning flashing lights on your site, so as not to trigger someone with epilepsy.

Knowledge is the logical first step in creating an ADA-compliant site. ADA compliance training can ensure that all members of your team are knowledgeable on all the requirements involved with website ADA compliance, so things don’t go unnoticed. By identifying what needs to be done on your site and working with knowledgeable people, you can easily find the right tools to develop new code that is compliant.

Don’t let a lawsuit be the catalyst to make your site ADA compliant. By working with those in the know and using the right tools, you can instantly access new customers who may have otherwise looked to your competitors. Being accessible and compliant isn’t just a common courtesy for your users; it’s required by law, but more than that, it’s just the right thing to do.