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Recently, news outlets picked up the story that the Kardashian’s online store, DASH, might not comply with the American Disabilities Act (ADA). The online store is being sued by a blind man who says that his text-to-speech program is silent when he tries to shop via the website. This type of lawsuit is becoming more common, and online retailers need to be cognizant of the impact not complying with the ADA and WCAG 2.0 can have both on their business and their customers.

Listen Up, Retailers!

Silence shouldn’t be the norm when users are trying to have their text-to-speech programs help them with online shopping. I use text-to-speech every day to have my writing read back to me, and let me tell you when it skips around or doesn’t read text the way I want it to I get annoyed. Making a website that specifically rules out a huge group of customers is essentially choosing to exclude them from be able to easily shop.

If you went to a mall to shop and saw that it wasn’t wheelchair accessible, wouldn’t that bother you? This is exactly the same issue, just in a digital space. Online retailers are shutting out people who want to shop at their stores, just because they aren’t taking the time to comply with the regulations.

In many cases, users are suing to force retailers to start bringing their sites up to the minimum standards. However, many sites fly under the radar because users aren’t bringing the issues to their attention.

Who Is Being Left Out?

A great article from Chain Store Age really drives this point home, “More than 200 million Americans will shop online this year. Statistically, nearly 10 million of those shoppers will be visually impaired, more than 10 million will have a hearing impairment and more than four million of those will have severe limitations to their dexterity.”[1]

Online retailers are literally alienating millions of shoppers. Years ago this failure to comply could have been passed off as not having the tools or the knowledge to make sites that are accessible. But now, that excuse just won’t hold water.

These shoppers can have a wide range of disabilities that make it tough for them to use websites that aren’t created with accessibility in mind. Users that are deaf, visually impaired, blind, or have mobility impairments can have trouble using websites without a bit of assistance.

This help can come in the form of using a keyboard to navigate through webpages instead of a mouse or a trackpad if they have mobility problems. It can also mean having a text-to-speech program read a page to them if they have trouble seeing. There are so many ways that accessibility modifications can help users, retailers just need to start making the changes.

How Can Retailers Fix the Problem?

Pretending that the problem is too complicated to fix isn’t an option anymore (thankfully).

It can be simple, and pretty fast to bring your website up to meeting WCAG 2.0 standards. For example, installing the UserWay widget only takes a few minutes and doesn’t require any changes to a site’s code. It really can’t be much simpler, and the widget takes care of some of the biggest problems users have with noncompliant websites. It’ll change the contrast of a page, assist in keyboard navigation, and increase the font size for users at the click of a button.

It’s best to figure out if your online shop complies before you get hit with a lawsuit or lose potential customers. Even doing some user testing will help you to identify problems your users might have. It is really tough to imagine what facets of your site might cause issues without doing a bit of practical research first.

There are great online compliance checkers that can help you figure out what changes your site needs. Even something simple like making sure the background of your site contrasts with the text at the right ratio can really help users. If you’ve ever read light text on a white background, then you know how tough it can be to read a low contrast website. Check out your site’s contrast ratios here.

Help Users Out

If you’re an online retailer then you want to make sales, right? If you had a brick and mortar store, you wouldn’t make it tough for people to shop in, so why use that strategy with your online store? It seems like a pretty bad business plan to block millions of users from shopping on your site just because you haven’t made the necessary modifications. Creating a site that is universally accessible will give people with disabilities the opportunity to buy what you are selling. It just makes sense.


[1] http://www.chainstoreage.com/article/web-accessibility-why-it-matters-all-retailers