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Digital accessibility: a vital component for an excellent e-commerce experience

Digital accessibility is often overlooked when it comes to creating an exceptional online shopping experience. But what was once viewed as a nice-to-have is now seen as mandatory – both from a customer and compliance perspective.

An estimated 26% of U.S. adults identify as having a disability, whether blindness, hearing impairment, trouble lifting and grasping, cognitive issues, or other. Their unique needs impact whether they can engage with your online storefront. If your site or app isn’t designed with their needs in mind, at best, their online interaction is frustrating. At worst, they simply cannot navigate it at all. The result — a significant percentage of your customer base may be entirely excluded from your e-commerce experience.

Accessibility not only maximizes your audience, it protects your brand. In recent years, there have been more than 10,000 reputation-damaging lawsuits filed against companies for inaccessible online content, the vast majority of them targeting the retail industry. Plaintiffs claim the lack of online accessibility equates to discrimination and is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). U.S. state and federal courts have overwhelmingly agreed: the ADA applies to the digital world. Fail to make your site accessible, and your company may be the target of a legal demand letter or the subject of a costly lawsuit.

The good news is that some of the more common accessibility issues can be resolved more easily — and quickly — than you may think, and don’t require you to sacrifice design:

  • Get started with a free tool, such as WAVE, to scan your site and identify machine-detectable errors.
  • Check your images to add any missing alternative text.
  • Make sure your videos have accurate audio descriptors as well as closed captioning.
  • Use a proper heading structure so that someone navigating with a screen reader or other assistive technology can tab through your content in a meaningful way.
  • Watch your color contrast — or how well one color stands out from another. Someone with color blindness or low vision may have trouble seeing light text on a light color.

Making these modifications will remove a significant number of barriers for individuals with disabilities. These changes will also improve the overall experience for every user.

For long-term sustainability, the best-practice approach is to align with an experienced partner to help you navigate the complexities of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and various legal regulations. A partner will work with you to get your digital assets accessible and keep them that way, ultimately maximizing your audience, protecting your brand and reducing your legal risk. To learn more about how eSSENTIAL Accessibility and iMedia can support your digital accessibility strategy, contact us today.

Guest blog written by Ian Lowe of eSSENTIAL Accessibility. About eSSENTIAL Accessibility:

eSSENTIAL Accessibility works with clients to achieve and maintain digital accessibility compliance through an all-in-one platform that unifies technology, manual evaluation, accessibility expertise, legal guidance, UX and code advice, and training and enablement. Our integrated approach is necessary to support the complex technical, human and legal issues involved in digital accessibility.