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Answering the eight-trillion-dollar question: is your online retail business accessible to all?

AudioEye

Posted April 09, 2020

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More than 1 billion people worldwide live with some form of disability[1]. Together, they have an annual disposable income of $1.2 trillion. When you factor in their family and friends, that figure rises to a staggering $8 trillion[2].

The ongoing rise of online shopping makes it easier for retailers to reach out to this huge—and growing—market. But only if their websites are fully accessible. You wouldn’t install a wide and obstructive obstacle course in front of your physical store (even if it weren’t illegal to do so). So why have barriers to your online presence?

Beyond bricks and mortar

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 to guarantee that people with disabilities aren’t excluded from participating in everyday activities, including shopping. Title III of the ADA states that any business that provides commercial goods or services to the public cannot discriminate against customers based on a disability.

But retailers who think that priority parking bays, elevators, and ramps in their physical stores are enough to meet the needs of disabled shoppers should think again. Time and again, courts have ruled that Title III of the ADA applies to e-commerce websites as well as physical stores.

Until recently, most retailers have prioritized making their brick-and-mortar stores accessible to people with disabilities, such as people who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids or who rely on a guide dog or a white cane. Automatic doors, wide aisles, and specially trained customer service staff make life easier for people with disabilities visiting physical stores. But what about when they go online?

All too often, retailers overlook the accessibility of their websites. This is no longer an option – not least because of the widespread shutdown of physical stores in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. Today, if an e-commerce site is not accessible to people with disabilities, it is in violation of the ADA and a litigation risk.

The number of website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal courts almost tripled from 815 in 2017 to more than 2,200 in 2019[3]—a trend that only looks set to continue.

Win customers through inclusivity

Perhaps most striking of all is the fact that retailers without an accessible website are effectively shutting their doors to millions of potential customers. A potential customer base with trillions of dollars’ worth of spending power.

What’s more, research shows that people—with or without disabilities—increasingly want to support brands that promote values that align with their own. 52% of consumers actively consider company values when making a purchase, and 20% prioritize company values over competing factors like price and convenience[4]. Retailers that demonstrate they actively support people with disabilities will earn the patronage of these value-driven shoppers.

Digital accessibility is an opportunity not to be missed: good for your bottom line and your brand.

Get help from the experts

To ensure compliance with the requirements of Title III of the ADA, retailers must align their websites with accepted accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

WCAG states that e-commerce sites must accommodate screen readers, provide alternative text for images, make all functionality available via a keyboard, support assistive technologies such as speech input, and provide text transcripts of audio files.

If that seems daunting, don’t worry! AudioEye is here to help. We will help you achieve digital accessibility and compliance quickly and easily. Get in touch today.

 

[1] Source: “World Report on Disability,” World Health Organization, 2011 (http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/70670/1/WHO_NMH_VIP_11.01_eng.pdf).

[2] Source: Rich Donovan, “2016 Annual Report: The Global Economics of Disability,” Return on Disability Group, May 1, 2016 (http://www.rod-group.com/sites/default/files/2016%20Annual%20Report%20-%20The%20Global%20Economics%20of%20Disability.pdf).

[3] See the AudioEye blog “Digital accessibility legal landscape: are you at risk with an inaccessible site?

[4] See the Forrester report “Align With Consumers’ Values To Win Their Hearts And Wallets” and see the Forrester report “The Values-Based Consumer.”

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