Is Your Site Accessibility Ready for Online Holiday Shopping?
We’re weeks away from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and if you haven’t started already, it’s time to prepare your e-commerce site for a wave of holiday shoppers. In 2018, the National Retail Foundation reported that four out of 10 consumers started their holiday shopping as early as Nov. 1, and 55 percent of their purchases would be made online. The number of U.S. multichannel shoppers increased 40 percent from the previous year, and 2019 is likely to continue on this upward trend.
While most businesses prepare by improving their site security and site performance measures, if your website or app isn’t accessible to people with disabilities, you could be missing out on a significant market share and/or be at risk for legal complaints.
Capture a Huge, Overlooked Market Share
Approximately one in five people in the United States, or 64 million, have a disability.
The total after-tax disposable income for working-age people with disabilities is approximately $490 billion. For comparison, African-Americans’ disposable income is $501 billion and for people of Hispanic origin it is $582 billion.
In 2018, an estimated 165.8 million consumers shopped between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday. If we do the math, approximately 33.16 million (one out of five) of them could be shoppers with disabilities. Furthermore, studies have shown that two-thirds of people with disabilities will abandon a website if it's inaccessible.
Not only does having an accessible website boost earning potential for your organization, but it also improves your organization’s brand value. Younger consumers whose buying decisions are influenced by social justice causes will be less likely to trust your brand if your site is inaccessible. In fact, nine out of 10 blind internet users are vocal anti-advocates for inaccessible companies.
Mobile accessibility is also crucial for gaining people with disabilities as potential customers, as last year two-thirds of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers turned to their mobile devices to research and purchase holiday items.
Survey research data collected by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies (Wireless RERC) indicates that 84 percent of people with disabilities own or use a cell phone or smartphone. When including tablets, that statistic raises the wireless device ownership rate for people with disabilities to 91 percent.
Avoid a Costly Complaint or Lawsuit
If your site is inaccessible, you’re not only missing out on a huge, overlooked market, but you’re potentially at risk for a legal complaint or lawsuit. In fact, ADA web accessibility-related lawsuits exploded by 181 percent from 2017 (814) to 2018 (2285).
Real-world numbers from an accessibility-related lawsuit show that legal fees (not including settlement fees) alone could cost you over $350,000.
The table below breaks down each “action” involved in a lawsuit (such as lawyer assignment, status meetings, etc.) and includes the number of people, multiplied by the billable hours of people involved, and calculates an extended cost value.
You can use the statistics above to make the business, fiscal and legal case for your organization to invest in website accessibility. The reality is that you simply can’t afford to put off accessibility any longer. With that in mind, here are some tips for embarking on your accessibility journey:
- Shift left. Start addressing accessibility as early as possible in the software development lifecycle through automated testing that’s built into your existing development processes. Studies have shown it's significantly more cost effective to identify and fix exclusionary design and development practices pre- vs. post-production.
- Start making immediate progress. Take advantage of free, automated testing tools that can catch many simple and common accessibility issues.
- Don’t focus on perfection. For as long as you’re creating new content, you’ll be practicing accessibility. Make a commitment to progress and work toward the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) AA level of conformance. Incorporate two or three best practices at the start (e.g., using large, clearly marked page headers enabling easier site navigation for people with visual impairments) and build on your successes from there.
- Involve all content creators in accessibility. Ensure accessibility isn't the sole responsibility of the website development team. Everyone who is creating holiday-related website content — from product images to website copy — should create their materials with accessibility in mind. For example, product images should be accompanied by alt text descriptions that are highly intuitive for those using screen readers (e.g., “click here to buy blue cap-sleeved dress” vs. “image493.jpg”).
As the holidays grow closer, organizations must take a closer look at their website and mobile application accessibility. Given the sheer size of the market for persons with disabilities and the potential legal ramifications, accessibility could be as big a factor (if not bigger) than site performance and security in determining the success of your holiday endeavors. Embracing accessibility just makes good business sense; it’s never too late to start making progress.
Greg Williams is an accessibility program office executive at Deque Systems, a digital accessibility testing services and solutions provider that helps organizations ensure their websites, mobile sites and apps are accessible to persons with a wide range of disabilities, including vision, hearing and cognitive impairments.
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Greg Williams is an Accessibility Program Office Executive at Deque Systems, a digital accessibility testing services and solutions provider that helps organizations ensure their websites, mobile sites and apps are accessible to persons with a wide range of disabilities, including vision, hearing and cognitive impairments.