How To You Make Your eCommerce Site More ADA Compliant
1. Understand the Seriousness of ADA-Compliance
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990 to provide civil rights protection to people with disabilities, making discrimination on the basis of disability illegal. The ADA originally focused on physical accessibility and accommodations, and since it predates the modern web and communication technologies, it doesn’t specifically mention websites. The law has sat stagnant since its inception, failing to keep up with changing times and technologies. That may finally be changing.
In July of 2018, 19 Attorneys General sent a letter to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking the Department of Justice to formalize web accessibility standards under the ADA. This is a step in the right direction to make the web more accessible for everyone and to help businesses understand the requirements for providing that accessibility and complying with the law.
2. Review Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
There are many shoppers are expected to shop online, leaving eCommerce businesses vulnerable to potential lawsuits. To help you prepare, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) explains how users with disabilities can access sites. While you’re in the process of strategically planning your holiday content, be sure to double-check all points of access to your store. You need to ensure your site is ”perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust”.
“Taking proper measures to get an ADA-compliant website will save companies time and money. This step is always forgotten, overlooked, and never budgeted for. Many helpful tools can let you know if your site passes ADA requirements and extensions that come with approved codes” – Jignesh Joshi, Sr. Project Manager, Redstage
3. Add Alternative Means of Access
Ensuring your content is “perceivable” may not be the toughest task you’ll face on your ADA-compliance journey. In fact, it may even be the opposite. According to the WCAG, all images including charts and infographics must include alt-text. Since SEO and content marketing are already part of your eCommerce strategy, you’ve likely already added alt-text to all of your imagery. To make sure, take some time to go through your archive and add relevant alt-text wherever it’s missing. This process may be tedious, but site readers (software) must be able to successfully read and describe your images to the blind and visually impaired.
54% of consumers want to see more video content from a brand or business they support. Naturally, videos have become a common practice for brands. All published video and audio files must also be accessible to those with disabilities. This can be achieved by including closed captions and text transcripts. Closed captions should be accurate and in sync with video while text transcripts should accurately convey what’s in the video file. If you’re producing audio content like podcasts, you may want to pay close attention.
The WCAG updates are continuous and it can be easy to overlook minor details like fonts, for example. Make sure your fonts are clearly readable and properly displayed on a high contrast background. To play it safe, keep the standard light background and dark font. These minor changes can be a huge help for your users to easily navigate your site.
When focusing on navigation, the first step is to ensure your website’s entire navigation can be fully operated via keyboard, without a mouse or touchscreen. Users should have the ability to pause, slow down automatic movements, interact with images, and play videos through the keyboard. One tip is to stay away from auto-play to give your visitors enough time to read and process content.
Secondly, if your website doesn’t have a search function that can help your customers find products and information at ease, it’s required under the Web Accessibility Standards to have one.
Lastly, do not forget to include a site map. Remember, a positive user experience requires users to have the ability to operate your website that is understandable and feels natural.
5. Website Features Should Be Understandable
When producing content, remember: all of your visitors must be able to read and understand it. Providing a default language function can not only keep you out of a lawsuit, but it can positively affect your conversion rate. We all know the uncomfortable feeling of standing in the middle of a conversation without understanding what is being discussed. To ensure your users and their reading assistance technology can properly function, refrain from the use of jargon, idioms and abbreviations without properly introducing or explaining them.
Your website may already have the main functions that are considered predictable under the WCAG. Your users should be able to come to your website and predict what will happen as they interact. If you’re unsure, we have provided a brief checklist below.
- An X in the upper left- or right-hand corner for users to close the window.
- All Visible forms have instructions
- Navigation is consistent across all pages (Up, down, left, right)
It may seem like a lot to fine-tune your website. Make sure you keep your developers in the loop as they’re coding and responsible for making sure your website is running smoothly. It takes a lot of work to get fully compliant. Once you’ve achieved compliance, you’ll want to keep it that way.
6. Website Should Be Error-Free
While developers have a lot on their to-do list, the main priority is to make sure your website is robust enough to be considered ADA-compliant. This step may take the most time, but it can save you more than $50,000. Without getting into too much coding jargon, the overall presentation must be error-free and coded with standard HTML tags. We touched on some of these points earlier in the article, so here’s a quick checklist to review with your developers.
- Clear Descriptive Text
- Nested Headings
- Clear Forms
- Uniform Labels
- Section Labels
- Clean Code