ADA web accessibility lawsuits hit record numbers in 2018, with over 850 retailers sued and with the retail industry making up the lion’s share—38 percent. The trend looks likely to continue this year, so it is more crucial than ever for retailers to invest the time and resources to bring their websites up to WCAG 2.0 standards.
Retail in the Crosshairs
From Amazon to Etsy to Target, users spend an increasing amount of their time shopping online, making retail one of the internet’s top economic engines. Its near ubiquity in our lives may explain why the industry tops the list of targets for web accessibility lawsuits:
- It’s no secret whether or not their sites are accessible. In days gone by, a person with a disability would have to travel to each retail outlet in order to assess whether it met standards for physical accessibility. Now, it takes just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the phone to know if a retailer has met its obligations in the digital realm. In addition, large retailers are assumed to have deep pockets, which makes them easy targets for plaintiffs and lawyers.
- The legal precedent is clear. In the past, the DOJ has taken action that has forced retailers to update their digital properties. This pattern is now well-known and leaves the industry with little room for excuses or exceptions in the face of a lawsuit.
- WCAG 2.0 conformance isn’t easy. Large retailers have deep, complex websites and apps, which can pose real logistical and financial challenges to accessibility updates. In addition, WCAG was designed for a different era of the internet, one in which websites were static, HTML pages. This is a far cry from today’s fluid, algorithmic sites with up-to-the-minute content and personalized interfaces.
In addition to the aforementioned moral and legal imperatives, retailers have a financial incentive to achieve comprehensive web accessibility.
Welcome a Growing (and Vocal) Community
It’s no secret that the digital retail market is growing by leaps and bounds. In 2016, over 1.6 billion people purchased goods online. That same year, a study in the U.K. estimated that as many as 10 percent of online purchases were made by users with disabilities. A retailer that ignores accessibility leaves money on the table.
Savvy retailers know that changes in taste are par for the course and that they must adjust to meet them. So, too, with expectations of the user experience on their websites.
Before you tackle your own accessibility, it helps to know the landscape. Our 2018 ADA Web Accessibility Lawsuit Recap Report is a great place to start.
Boost Your SEO
When you clean your desk, it’s much easier to find what you need. So, too, with websites. Another tangible benefit to a fully accessible site is improved SEO.
An accessible online store is one that is also optimized for browser searches. When your structure is intuitive, your images have accurate descriptions, and your information has proper labels, search engines will respond accordingly with improved results.
Find an Accessibility Partner or Go It Alone?
Some retailers have the IT staff and infrastructure to upgrade their web accessibility in-house; others may not have the time or knowledge to even know where to begin.
If your internal team stands at the ready:
- Make a plan; tell the world. Your digital properties likely touch nearly every department, so it’s essential that they all have a seat at the table. Your first priority should be to create an accessibility statement.
- Get started on accessibility remediation. Whether you currently face legal action or have remained safely under the radar, the time is now to begin planning for the work to come on your web and mobile properties.
- Include the disability community. Testing is essential to achieving accessibility, and your regimen should include a healthy mix of automated and manual components performed by experienced accessibility reviewers or daily users of assistive technology.
If you need a technology partner to guide your journey toward accessibility, UsableNet has you covered:
- UsableNet Assistive: We provide everything under this fully managed service that puts our developers and testers to work for you.
- UsableNet AQA: If you’ve got the technical side well in hand, do it yourself on our platform, and we’re happy to help where needed.
We’d love to help you get started in this process. Contact us for a free consultation.