Are you a sitting duck?
In 2018, nearly 2,300 ADA lawsuits against businesses were filed in federal courts claiming their websites weren’t ADA compliant. That’s an increase of a 181%over 2017 and a clear indication that activists are on a mission to ensure businesses everywhere comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Federal law requires that businesses help disabled people access the same services as able-bodied people, including those services offered via a website.
Websites built on the Shopify platform seem to be in the crosshairs of ADA activists, with many site owners receiving demand letters from plaintiffs. According to Third & Grove, any Shopify-based store that sells more than $1 million in sales revenue, sells primarily in the US, and advertises in major publications are essentially sitting ducks.
Over the past year, Something Digital has helped numerous Shopify stores comply with that WCAG standards. Here’s the thing: compliance is hardly radical. To be sure it takes some effort and ongoing commitment, but there are plenty of tools and partners that can help.
Besides, ADA compliance just makes good business sense. According the the US Census Bureau, 12.8% of people living in America have disabilities. That’s more 50 million people who could be your customers.
Common website challenges for people with disabilities
People with disabilities often rely on assistive technology when going online to shop or access other services, such as screen readers, text enlargement software, or software that allows users to control their computers via voice commands.
If a website doesn’t accommodate these assistive technologies, it will needlessly create obstacles for disabled people.The US Department of Justice identified common problems disabled people face with website design:
- Images without text equivalents. People who are blind or have low vision often use a screen reader or a refreshable Braille display. However, these solutions can’t translate images into speech or Braille.
- Documents with inaccessible formats. PDFs and other image-based documents aren’t easily accessible to people who use assistive technologies.
- Specifying colors and font sizes. Websites are designed using elements (color, font sizes and styles) that reflect a company’s brand. But many people with low vision use color and font settings that help them see the screens better, and need the ability to select their own colors, contrast and font sizes.
- Videos and Other Multimedia Lack Accessible Features. For blind or deaf people, these types of content are inaccessible without audio descriptions of images and text captions.
Through our work we’ve also discovered that screen readers and other assistive technologies encounter issues with navigation, headers, footers, understanding where the main content is located, as well as enhanced features, such as live chat.
Fortunately, we’ve designed strategies to help work through these issues.
The accessibility spec: Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
If you’ve done any kind of accessibility work on your site, then you’ve probably heard of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG. WCAG is a suite of guidelines, technical reports, and educational resources to help designers create websites that are accessible.
Generally speaking, the specs lay out:
- 3 levels of compliance (A, AA, AAA)
- 4 main principles for thinking about in order to achieve accessibility: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust
- 12 specific guidelines, rolled up to each principle
- Numerous techniques to demonstrate how to ensure success
Something Digital offers a free two-part eBook series that provides an overview of the WCAG specs, as well as concrete examples of how these specs have been deployed successfully to date.
Strategies for promoting website accessibility
As stated above, accessibility isn’t enormously complicated. For instance, by approaching font-size and color contrast in an accessibility-first design exercise, you go a long way in ensuring all users have the same brand experience. Replacing iconography with simple text instructions will mean allusers benefit from the smaller page sizes.
Implementing common keyboard navigation techniques to menus allows Google’s web crawlers to understand and prioritize navigation structures on your sites. And testing your designs with browser plugins that emulate common color-blindness lets you uncover potential issues.
Most importantly, accessible sites can be beautiful. Website designers don’t need to sacrifice any of the website elegance they’ve worked so hard to achieve.
5 accessibility features built into Something Digital’s Mercury Accelerator for Magento
If you’re launching a site for the first time, or re-launching an existing one, Something Digital can help you ensure your site complies with the WCAG requirements for accessibility from the start. Our Mercury Accelerator offers five functionalities — all absent in baseline Magento — that make ecommerce sites accessible to consumers with disabilities. Those functionality address:
- Robust Keyboard navigation
- Assistive cues
- Voiceover support with detailed Aria Roles
- Focus management for modern UI/UX interactions
- Descriptive text for UI and theme components as well as PageBuilder support
Go beyond the one-time compliance checklist
Websites are updated daily; the WCAG specs are updated annually, which is why you should plan on monitoring your site accessibility compliance on a continuous basis. Our partner, Siteimprove, is a terrific resource in that department. The company offers automated testing of things like form fields, color combinations and PDF accessibility on a daily basis to ensure your site never falls out of compliance.
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by WCAG and what it means for your site, give us a call or email us and we’ll help you assess your site’s level of accessibility and put a plan into action to achieve compliance.