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 ADA web accessibility lawsuits in 2018. Plaintiffs targeted more than 850 retail outlets, making up 38 percent of all suits, the greatest share of any industry. Early data from January through June of 2019 shows this trend continuing with lawsuits against retailers making up 58 percent of all claims.
Despite this compelling data, many myths persist about web accessibility.
1. I’ll have to compromise my site’s design and functionality.
Good accessibility is good usability. It also boosts SEO, can streamline your sales path, and can help you better integrate your brand into site design.
Good accessibility and good design can go hand in hand but will take some effort. It’s harder to try and combine after the fact and easier to do as you build from scratch.
For this retailers wanting to keep their current design and features as is but provide full accessibility they can look at dynamic remediation.
UsableNet Assistive is the perfect solution. If accessibility is a top priority but exceeds your technical ability or IT capacity, our fully managed service can help. We’ll do all the heavy lifting as you continue business as usual. In a few weeks, you’ll have an accessible site and a major item checked off your to-do list.
2. I’m a small business. Only large retailers get sued.
It’s easy to dismiss these lawsuits as something relevant only to the Fortune 500. You’re a mom-and-pop shop, so plaintiffs aren’t going to waste their time on you. While many plaintiffs do target large corporations, in truth, no one is safe—Ben Tundis, owner of Island Comfort Footwear in Clearwater, Florida, discovered this first-hand. If you’re a business that is expanding or growing quickly, you’re even more likely to attract this attention.
If you feel you could be a target of legal action, you essentially have two options: invest now on accessibility upgrades and make meaningful changes to your website that can bring you more business, or waste money later on an avoidable legal settlement. And a settlement with one plaintiff doesn’t prevent additional lawsuits—31 percent of retail companies listed in suits since July 2017 have been sued multiple times. 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—a colossal 1.3 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.
Take inspiration from the example of Peapod, an early pioneer in retail accessibility. As early as 1993, the online grocery delivery company hosted a screen-reader version of its site and offered phone support.