Ecommerce WCAG 2.1 AA and ADA Compliance and Certification
Why Web Accessibility Matters for Ecommerce Websites
Ecommerce websites fall under the “places of public accommodation” language of the ADA, which includes private businesses that are open to the general public. While your ecommerce business may not have a physical location, your digital storefront (from a legal standpoint) is still subject to ADA accessibility laws. Beyond being the right thing to do from an ethical and legal standpoint, compliance opens up your business to millions of additional potential customers.
The prevalence of judges holding digital entities to the same standards as physical ones continues to rise—however, many of these cases have found that adherence to WCAG standards are sufficient for meeting accessibility requirements. Additionally, with nearly 70% of online shopping carts being abandoned, the last thing you want as a brand is to be contributing to accessibility issues that exacerbate cart abandonment rates.
Being in full compliance and dedicating your brand to being a part of an overarching accessibility solution is about more than avoiding a lawsuit. It is an opportunity to attract an underserved group in our society who often cannot experience the products and services that the rest of the world gets to freely enjoy.
What Is Web Accessibility for Ecommerce?
ADA accessibility was not written with the digital world in mind—and certainly not the ecommerce world. Accessibility needs have evolved as more of our life has moved online, and this process will not slow down any time soon. Ecommerce sites have a special set of accessibility requirements beyond those of a blog or simple news site. They must manage checkout functionality, forms, product images, and many other elements. However, the WCAG do give us nine general guidelines that encompass most aspects of ecommerce business sites, such as checkouts, form fields, mobile shopping, and more, including:
- Color contrast
- Providing descriptive labels
- Alt text for links and images
- Making information in tables accessible and easy to read
- Navigation of your site via keyboard only
- Indicating the focus for the user on the screen (pointers and lines)
- Size of fonts
- Headings and labels
- Captions for video and audio content
Who Are Ecommerce Brands Helping by Being Compliant?
Brands on the forefront of keeping their sites ADA compliant not only help over 60 million Americans living with disabilities but also help themselves by maximizing top-of-funnel sales opportunities. The WCAG outline four main areas of website accessibility. Sites need to be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust to effectively cater to individuals falling under WCAG 2.1 AA regulations, such as:
- The visually impaired
- Persons with physical disabilities
- Persons with auditory disabilities
- Persons with cognitive and learning disabilities
- Persons with epilepsy
- The elderly
How Does Your Online Shopping Cart Become Compliant?
Getting your ecommerce website ADA compliant may require the combined use of automated tools and manual compliance strategies. Some ecommerce sites use compliance scanners to help them uncover a starting point for their programmers to begin manual fixes—however, when you have an ecommerce site with a wide variety of products, this can be a tedious, costly, and time-consuming effort. Being fully compliant can take months to a year, depending on the intensity and complexity of your site. All that time and effort could be devoted to other matters, like attracting and converting new customers.
This is where technology can be leveraged to lessen the blow and reduce the upfront time investment. Our ability to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to provide automated remediation for a broad range of compliance issues helps you reach ADA compliance faster at a drastically reduced price point.
Choosing a Manual, Automated, or Hybrid Solution
Ecommerce Lawsuits on the Rise
In the first six months of 2018 there were over 5,000 lawsuits filed in federal court for alleged website violations. One of these lawsuits involved Avanti Hotel, a boutique hotel in Palm Springs, CA. According to the LATimes.com, fixing Avanti’s website would cost around $3,000; however, with additional damages that figure could swell to between $8,000 and $13,000.
Jim Rutledge, the hotel owner, was quoted as saying, “I would really like to fight it, but it just comes down to finances.” If Rutledge were to fight the suit and lose, he would be forced to pay up to $25,000 plus lawyers’ fees. The LATimes.com stated that “Business owners who are sued under the ADA complain that the law allows plaintiffs to demand huge payouts in damages without first giving the business owner the opportunity to fix the websites.”
The fact is, any brand offering ecommerce functionality needs to protect themselves from lawsuits such as this. While being ADA compliant is the right thing to do, it’s also important not to overlook those who strive to exploit ecommerce brands that have unknowingly left their websites open to ADA compliance lawsuits.