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What is ADA Compliance for eCommerce Websites

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eCommerce website design
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As a eCommerce business, it is indispensable for you to offer a great experience to your customers, as they are the key to success. 

What is the best customer experience for you? 

It is, making your online store easily accessible, so that customers can shop seamlessly, right? 

But, what about the customers with a disability? Are they able to access your eCommerce site easily? 

While many eCommerce store owners emphasize excellent customer experience, they overlook the customers with a disability. Many online stores are hardly accessible to people with disabilities and hearing or visual impairments. 

If we really want to keep the eCommerce industry thriving, we must treat every customer with equal amenities and benefits. And here comes the role of ADA compliance in eCommerce. Your eCommerce website must be ADA-compliant and accessible to all types of users, including those with disabilities. Let’s dive deep into ADA compliance to understand its importance and benefits for eCommerce businesses.

What is ADA? 

The Americans with Disabilities Act was released in 1990 to protect people with disabilities from prejudice in all areas of public life. The law ensures every individual with disabilities has equal rights and opportunities as ordinary people. The ADA has been effective in making public areas more accessible to individuals with physical disabilities and improving their quality of life. 

When it is about accessibility and eCommerce, ADA Title III is important to us. It explains some regulations about accessibility by disabled individuals that every business must know and comply with. 

What is Included in ADA Title III? 

The ADA Title III states that no person may be discriminated against based on disability in respect of complete and equal access to the goods, facilities, accommodations, or services of any public accommodation place.

Businesses that are usually open to the public and that appear in one of the twelve categories mentioned in the ADA, such as movie theatres, restaurants, daycare facilities, schools, doctors’ offices, and recreation facilities, need to comply with the ADA Title III. 

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Does eCommerce Websites fall into the ADA list?

ADA was introduced in 1990 when we didn’t even know most of the digital technologies. Hence, initially, there was no explicit mention of the eCommerce website accessibility in the ADA. There were no legal provisions that particularly explain the steps that websites or eCommerce websites must follow to accommodate people with disabilities. 

However, over the past few years, there was a great increase in court cases regarding the same conception. Especially, from 2017 to 2018, the cases filed in federal court under ADA Title III exploded – rising to 177%, from 814 in 2017 to 2,258 in 2018.

Here are a couple of cases challenging ADA Title III:

NAD vs Netflix, 2012

The National Association of the Deaf sued media services provider Netflix, stating that it doesn’t offer closed captions for video streaming, which is a violation of the ADA. Netflix disagreed, saying it was not a “place of public accommodation.”

A federal district court in Massachusetts became first to adjudicate that the ADA also applies to website-only businesses. Then, Netflix settled out of the lawsuit and agreed to add captions to all of its videos.

Guillermo Robles vs Domino’s Pizza, 2019

In 2016, Guillermo Robles, a Los Angeles citizen, filed a case against Domino’s Pizza as he couldn’t order pizza online. The Domino’s website didn’t support voice navigation or screen readers, which are often required by blind and low-vision people to navigate the Internet.

Domino’s argued and tried appealing the Supreme Court stating that the ADA did not apply to online websites but applied to brick-and-mortar stores only. But, the court rejected Domino’s appeal.

The case is still ongoing, and if the court’s verdict is in Robles’ favour, there will be big changes in the eCommerce website design arena. If the judgment goes in favour of Robles, an accessible website will be mandatory for all businesses.

Should You Make a Website ADA Compliant?

Even though the regulations regarding website accessibility for disabled individuals are not yet defined clearly, businesses with a website that is inaccessible to disabled people can be sued. Therefore, to be on a safe side, it is recommended and required for all businesses especially eCommerce, to make their websites completely accessible to the blind, deaf, or people with speech, visual, physical, or cognitive disability. 

How to Make a Website ADA Compliant? 

After understanding the importance of a ADA-compliant website, you must start working on your website to make it more accessible for disabled users. Especially if you are about to create a new website, don’t overlook the ADA compliance factor. But, how can you make an eCommerce website fully accessible for disabled users? Here are a few steps to help you with your website accessibility. 

Identify the Special Needs of Disabled Individuals

Recognizing the unique needs of disabled people can help to improve your website accessibility. To start with, consider the individuals with visual and hearing impairments, as major accessibility improvement are needs for this group. Know what exactly they need to access the website easily. Keep these needs in mind when designing or redesigning your website. Of course, this process may seem time-consuming and inefficient at first, but it’s worth every effort in order to avoid a lawsuit.

Focus on making the site’s text readable by visually impaired users. Moreover, try making your e-commerce website screen reader-friendly, so that users who need Braille to read can easily read and understand the text. You can also add transcripts to the website to make video or audio more accessible for users with hearing impairment. 

Add Automated Customer Support 

Offering quick help to customers when they find something difficult can greatly improve customer satisfaction and experience. If a user with a disability is struggling to navigate, your website should offer help automatically. For this, you can integrate a chatbot or voice assistance to your eCommerce website that automatically communicates with customers when they visit.

Focus on Improving Accessibility of Essential Website Elements 

Certain website elements need to be adjusted to make them fully accessible to disabled people. 

1. Images

Visually-impaired and blind users often require speech readers to understand the text on a particular webpage. Thus, ensure your website is compatible with the speech reader. For this, it is important to add “alt” tags to all website images describing their content to the visually-impaired or blind users. 

2. Forms

Forms are one of the important elements of the eCommerce website. Whether it is an inquiry, registration or product order form, it should be easily accessible and understandable by disabled users/customers. If any error occurs to a form, a text-based or visual explanation must be displayed to inform the user of the error. Make sure that forms contain legends and labels

that are readable to a screen-reader tool. Also, a confirmation message readable to a screen reader must be displayed after form submission.

3. Links

Make sure all the links within website text are accessible with Tab key navigation. Also, consider adding a visual indicator when links will be opened in a new window and notifying the same with hidden text or an HTML title for blind and visually-impaired users. Ensure there is enough space between links and use a contrasting colour to make them more visible for users with low vision. Moreover, try avoiding repetitive links on a single page to eliminate user confusion. 

4. Menus

Menu is another element of an eCommerce website that needs to be easily accessible by all users. Make sure that menus and buttons have consistent presentation and order throughout the site to avoid user confusion. For users who use screen readers, the menu must be navigable using Tab to switch to the next item and Shift+Tab to go back to the previous one.

Additionally, the menu buttons must be navigable using the right and left arrow keys, and drop-down menus must be navigable with the up-and-down arrow keys.

5. Site Maps

Site maps are necessary for the user using screen readers. Consider creating an easily-accessible Jeep site map that can help users using a screen reader to get a quick overview of the website content, and access the web pages they want.

While this was only an outline, modifying all these elements can significantly improve your website accessibility and help provide a better experience to disabled users. To ensure an entirely accessible and ADA-compliant eCommerce website, you must seek expert assistance. 

Let’s now find out how an ADA-compliant website can benefit your business in different ways.

Benefits of ADA-Compliant Website

Increased Sales 

Nearly one in four citizens in the United States lives with some disability. With a highly accessible website, you can attract and reach these additional number of customers who look for an improved shopping experience as per their accessibility needs. And an improved customer base will result in a great sales boost. 

Avoid Legal Answerability

The rate of web accessibility-related demand letters and lawsuits are increasing gradually. Thus, it will be essential for eCommerce companies to have ADA-compliant websites in the future. Having a website already compliant with ADA can help avoid future legal liability and ensure your business is on a safe side. 

Improved Search Engine Optimization 

WCAG not only helps you make an ADA-compliant website but also suggests some best SEO practices, such as video transcripts, alt text for images, meta tags, header tags, sitemaps, link anchor text, image captioning. With these practices, you can improve your search engine optimization and get the highest ranking and better traffic.

Keep-up with Technology 

Technology is what impresses and attracts today’s tech-savvy customers. When making your website more accessible, you use the latest design strategies and innovative technologies like AI that can help attract more and more customers. 

Offer More Usable Website 

Not just individuals with disabilities, but an ADA compliant website benefits all users/customers offering them exceptional shopping experience. By following the WCAG, you help every customer to quickly find the information/product/service they’re looking for. A highly-usable website also results in fewer errors, increased speed, and offers a quicker learning curve to new users.

Improved Business Credibility 

Having an ADA-compliant eCommerce store means you care for all of your customers while avoiding discrimination. This indirectly builds a sense of trust among potential and existing customers and increases your business credibility. 

On a Final Note

With so many benefits and business security, it is wise to make your eCommerce website ADA-compliant. You might need investing significant time and money, but the outcomes will be worthwhile. If you really care for your customers and your business reputation, start thinking about ADA compliance now, and start acting on it.

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