Originally posted July 2019 and updated in March 2022 with data from our 2021 Lawsuit report.
There are compelling moral and ethical reasons for retail companies to ensure that their websites are fully accessible. There is also a strong economic incentive—over 1.6 billion people purchased goods online just a few short years ago, and that number only continues to trend upward. In short, digital inclusion provides a significant opportunity to grow your revenue.
But companies also face an even more pressing accessibility concern— an unprecedented number of more than 4,000 ADA web accessibility lawsuits in 2021. Plaintiffs targeted more than 2,900 e-commerce outlets, making up 74 percent of all suits, the greatest share of any industry.
Despite this compelling data, many myths persist about web accessibility in e-commerce.
1. I’ll have to compromise my site’s design and functionality.
Good accessibility is good design and benefits everyone. Digital accessibility boosts SEO, can streamline your sales path, and can help you better integrate your brand into the site design.
If you'd like to learn the fundamentals, consider joining our free UsableNet webinar on Thursday, March 24th at 12 pm, 'Webinar: Accessible Design for E-Commerce'.
Presenters, Luca Boškin, Senior UI/UX Designer, and Jeff Adams, Director of Accessibility Operations have both worked with industry leaders in the e-commerce space and will provide real, practical experience.
Save your seat on our accessibility design webinar to hear best practices to build e-commerce website accessibility into your online store to help you serve your customers of all abilities.
2. I’m a small business. Only large retailers get sued.
It’s easy to dismiss these lawsuits as something relevant only to the largest e-commerce companies, 412 of the Internet Retailer Top 500 list received an ADA-based digital lawsuit related to one of their brands in the last 4 years.
Yet, Businesses of all sizes and types can receive ADA lawsuits. We're seeing this happen more and more. If others in your industry are being sued, like the 50 colleges sued across the country sued for web accessibility at one time, or others in your industry and area have received lawsuits, like more than 75 New York art galleries sued within a matter of days for violations of ADA, you are likely to be next.
Lawsuits have started to target companies that make less than 50 million in revenue. In 2020, 30.46% of companies sued for accessibility claims made over 50 million dollars in revenue while 69.54% of companies sued for accessibility claims earned less than 50 million dollars in revenue. In 2021, 18.92% of companies sued for accessibility made more than 50 million dollars in revenue while 81.08% of companies sued had earnings less than 50 million dollars in revenue.
If you feel you could be a target of legal action, you essentially have two options: invest now in accessibility upgrades and make meaningful changes to your website that can bring you more business, or risk that you are missing out on business and waste money later on an avoidable legal settlement.
A settlement with one plaintiff doesn’t prevent additional lawsuits— 15% percent of lawsuits in 2021 were against companies that have received a previous ADA Digital Lawsuit. When put in these terms, the choice seems simple.
3. We’ll fix this when we redesign the website.
Website redesigns are mammoth projects and the longer you wait to begin, large segments of the population are left unable to interact with you online, even if they have been loyal customers.
There are free tools to help you get started, but the right technology partner can speed things up without breaking the bank. In the long run, it’s short money to make accessibility upgrades now and avoid lost business—and lawsuits—later.
4. This doesn’t apply to our business; we don’t sell very much online.
Even if your website simply exists to provide company information, location, or hours of operation, you want it to be accessible to the widest possible audience. If you’ve taken the time and expense to install a ramp or widen an entrance, it’s a no-brainer to extend that access digitally.
Accessibility also improves your performance in browser searches. A common-sense structure paired with properly labeled information and images is an ideal recipe for greater search visibility.
5. This isn’t our target market—none of our customers are blind.
Put simply, every business has customers with disabilities. To think otherwise leaves potential market share unclaimed and risks legal action.
By some estimates, the emerging market of people with disabilities now is equal to the population of China— over 1 billion potential customers. Baby Boomers—currently the wealthiest generation—make up a majority share of this market.
Many users with disabilities rely on the internet to do much of their shopping. You have a unique opportunity to be a leader in your industry, creating a universally accessible experience that welcomes all shoppers. Customers are hungry to support socially responsible companies.
Learn from the best.
For more. watch our on-demand webinar 'Accessible Design for E-Commerce'. We provide vital considerations you need to know when remediating your website's design for accessibility.