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What e-Commerce Sites Need to Know About Web Accessibility

Apr 5, 2018


Some daily activities - such as shopping - are much easier for people with disabilities to do online. Web accessibility is a crucial factor for both internet users with disabilities and the e-commerce websites that they frequent. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the basics of web accessibility as it pertains to e-commerce retailers.

The Benefits of an Accessible E-Commerce Site

Of course, improving your website’s accessibility doesn’t just benefit users — it also makes financial sense for your company. If your customers are waiting with cash in-hand to make a purchase, but can’t due to accessibility issues, then you’re leaving a major piece of your potential revenue on the table. According to the Click-Away Pound Survey, insufficiently accessible websites cost British retailers £11.75 billion ($16.5 billion) in 2016 alone.

Making your e-commerce website accessible also protects you from the risk of expensive, lengthy litigation based on violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Between January 2015 and October 2017, more than 700 lawsuits alleging ADA discrimination were filed against websites. Many e-commerce sites have been caught up in this wave of lawsuits, including makeup company Kylie Cosmetics and luggage retailer Bag’n Baggage.

Ensuring WCAG Compliance for E-Commerce Sites

To enjoy the full benefits of accessibility and reduce your legal risk, your e-commerce site should follow a mature, well-defined metric for web accessibility. The most popular set of web accessibility standards is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

Although there’s no legislation at the federal level defining required levels of web accessibility, the U.S. Department of Justice has repeatedly cited WCAG 2.0 as meeting the requirements of the ADA.

Below, we’ll go over some of the most important concerns for online shoppers with disabilities, and how you can help address them with the help of WCAG 2.0.

  • Screen readers: Shoppers who are blind or have other visual impairments often use screen readers to navigate the web. WCAG 2.0 requires that information conveyed visually about your website’s structure and relationships must be conveyed in text as well. For example, if you use green or red text on your site to indicate the success or failure of an order, then the text itself must also indicate this fact.
  • Color blindness: Users who are color blind have problems distinguishing between colors with low contrast. WCAG 2.0 requires most text to have a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1. If your products come in multiple colors, make sure to include text that describes each color.
  • Motor disabilities: People with motor disabilities may use their keyboards to navigate the web, or they may have trouble using the mouse to select page elements that are too close together. As WCAG 2.0 requires, all of the important elements and functionality on your site should be accessible using only the keyboard.
  • Cognitive disabilities: To assist shoppers with cognitive and memory disabilities, define and use a formal product category hierarchy for your site that’s straightforward and easy to navigate. In addition, WCAG 2.0 requires your site’s content and behavior to be predictable; for example, the navigation bar should always appear in the same location relative to other elements.


Want to learn more about making your e-commerce website accessible? Stay up to date on the latest web accessibility tips and developments by following the BoIA blog. Next, contact us for a free 30-minute consultation about your website’s accessibility.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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