Online accessibility is probably the easiest part of eCommerce to overlook for most people. However, due to regulations in various countries pushed increased awareness by the general public, it is now an obligation. So much so that lack of accessibility features on online shops makes a business much less competitive considering the importance of inclusivity. The technology to facilitate online shopping for people with special needs has improved. This innovation has also been able to factor in language and local regulation to a large degree. 15% of the world’s population have disabilities and less accessible sites are leaving a big chunk of money on the table.
Considering the global regulatory appetite, websites that fail to address accessibility expose themselves to legal liabilities. In the last few years, this has been the case but recently with the effects of COVID it has become much more of a priority. Major eCommerce sites from Domino’s, CVS, Nike, to Hershey’s have learnt the hard way. Moreover, even tech giants like Amazon and Apple have fallen foul of these regulations in recent years. According to accessiBe, ADA lawsuits in the US increased 183% between 2017 and 2018. 2019 saw discrimination and accessibility lawsuits exceed 3,200 case in the US compared to 2,285 cases the preceding year.
Smaller firms without access to the resources for lawsuits must ensure their sites are accessible by the standard of the jurisdictions they operate in. These suits have cost individual small businesses in excess of $90,000 and with others paying over $1m in liability claims. As online businesses have benefited from the boom in online visitors, they must be vigilant about the vulnerabilities of their websites. Many SME are determined to make websites accessible but litigation is driving up the cost of doing business, sometimes to the detriment of the customers. These lawsuits show how even seemingly minor accessibility issues can prevent people with disabilities from making a purchase. A bad integration can also cause companies to run foul of regulation. However, nimble agencies like DigiCommerce are adept at ensuring companies have compliant online stores.
Proactively including accessibility features like image alt text or keyboard-only navigation stave off the ire of litigation. It has also become more commonplace. Even after a website has integrated the required features needed to become WCAG compliant, properly communicating this is key to staying on the right side of regulation. This is where an accessibility statement comes in the picture. They help companies gain good will by communicating the concrete actions they are taking. This in turn can unlock a loyal customer base which can be a permanent boost to compliant smaller businesses. Almost half of customers say they are likely to stop patronizing brands, if they have the wrong social stance. Close to 20% say they would stop using such a brand permanently. For any eCommerce stores, it is smart to ensure disabilities are not a hindrance to making purchases.