7 Ways to Make Your E-Commerce Site More Accessible to Consumers With Disabilities
Twenty-six percent of Americans live with a disability, accounting for $490 billion in disposable income every year. These consumers want to discover products, learn more about them, and purchase easily, rights guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
A 2019 survey of disabled shoppers revealed that 86 percent would pay more for the same product if a competitor’s site was more accessible. While a 100 percent accessible experience may not be within immediate reach, it isn’t complicated to ensure vital information and functions are available to as many people as possible.
An inaccessible website is also a threat to business continuity through hefty compliance lawsuits and reputational damage. Accessibility overlay solutions market themselves as cheaper, quick fixes for compliance. While hundreds of e-commerce websites utilize them, many are unaware of the “fine print” that states these solutions do not achieve legal objectives or equality efforts.
Here are seven ways e-commerce retailers can make their websites more accessible to people with disabilities:
1. Alternative Text
People who are blind use screen readers to access websites and rely on alternative text of images and product descriptions to select the right product, sizes, and learn about details including ingredients and instructions. Use descriptive alternative text to provide information of each nondecorative image and hide decorative images from screen readers.
2. Accurate Form Labels
Form fields need to include labels that are visible and available to assistive technology, not just placeholder text. Otherwise, blind consumers are less able to complete a purchase and abandon their cart. Users of speech recognition cannot focus on fields or activate controls by speaking the label that appears on screen, making it difficult to complete adding the right items and checking out.
3. Color Contrast
Consumers with visual impairments often struggle to fill out payment forms, choose specific product options, and complete a purchase when a business prioritizes unfunctional aesthetics. Free tools are available to check for sufficient contrast, including a contrast testing extension for Chrome.
4. Clear Error Messages
It's frustrating for people with cognitive disabilities to have to try to determine what information is missing in order to log in, add payment details, and complete a purchase — often due to inadequate error messages and instructions. Consider listing errors by each field as they appear and communicating what's wrong after submitting a form.
5. Be No-Mouse Friendly
Some people with disabilities rely on keyboards to use their computers. If a website makes it difficult or impossible to navigate and interact with the site without a mouse, it will be impossible for them to purchase anything.
6. Fix Automated Captions
Product videos and other video marketing content cannot safely rely on artificial intelligence (AI) to create accurate captions — an essential element to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Automatically generated captions may include inappropriate, insensitive words, or just plain inaccurate content. If the marketing content is scripted, simply plug in the words or invest in a human to correct the AI’s errors.
7. Make Reviews Inclusive
The disabled customer’s journey doesn't end when they make a purchase. If they can’t read or leave a review, or answer product questions, other people with disabilities may not know if a product will work for them. Make the review process accessible and simple by sending a direct link to leave a review to yield a broader picture of the product.
Ensuring greater accessibility for all customers isn't just the right thing to do, it’s good for business and shows your commitment to diversity and inclusion. For businesses that want to improve customer experience and relations, avoid litigation, and ensure digital assets are accessible to all, it's best to partner with a digital accessibility firm that uses a combination of automated, manual and functional testing with assistive technology performed by experienced technical experts and people with disabilities.
Jonathan Avila is chief accessibility officer at Level Access, a company that offers software, consulting and training solutions to provide the full 360-degree coverage needed to ensure accessible and compliant websites, mobile apps, software, and other technology, while protecting against legal risk.