ADA for E-Commerce Websites: Step-By-Step Compliance

  • 16.05.2022

A non-compliant e-commerce store is going to be more expensive in comparison to the cost of achieving digital accessibility.

According to a recent report, more than 75% of the ADA lawsuits were filed against e-commerce websites in 2021. Moreover, there is a trend of facing back-to-back lawsuits. If you are not proactive or quick enough with the remediation, you might be targeted with another lawsuit for violation of digital accessibility in e-commerce. 15% of these lawsuits were against e-commerce companies that had already faced legal repercussions for ADA violations in the past.

Why Website Accessibility is Crucial For E-commerce?

Courts interpret that according to the Title III of the ADA (Americans With Disability Act) web technologies, including websites, software platforms and mobile apps are considered ‘places of public accommodation’, therefore the challenge of web-accessibility litigations is growing bigger day by day.

If you are an online retailer, you need to be addressing the issues of ADA compliance more proactively because:

  • E-commerce websites have wider visibility

For serial litigants, the easiest target is an e-commerce store.

It is pretty easy and quick to find flaws in the process of applying product filters, filling up the check-out forms and other such activities that require assistive technology.

The accessibility levels of an e-commerce store are easily visible and as a result, they have to face the consequences in case of ADA violations.

  • E-commerce is thriving

Due to rapidly changing consumer preferences, the number of online retailers is increasing at a whopping rate. To survive the competition, e-commerce stores are constantly evolving. Be it the format, structure, layout or the content they are always updating. The constant need to keep revising makes it difficult to adhere to the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) framework.

Increased visibility is the only way an e-commerce store can generate leads and make profits. However, their visibility has become the key motivation for serial litigants. If you want to steer clear of the risk of legal recourse, you need to develop a accessible website and establish a proactive approach to keep testing the website with every release.

What are the benefits of developing an ADA compliant E-commerce store?

Apart from the legal actions, online retailers should make ADA compliance a part of their workflow. A non-compliant store is probably losing a large segment of the target audience.

Since one-fourth of the US population is disabled, you need to make sure that your key demographic has barrier-free access to the store and the offerings.

The concept of e-retailing has opened the door to opportunities, to make the most out of it, you need to be non-discriminatory toward your prospective customers. By practicing compliance, a store gains the benefit of being an accountable entity that is most likely to be closing more leads and making huge profits.

How to Achieve E-commerce ADA Compliance?

Now that you know the importance of ADA for the success of e-commerce, here is a step-by-step guide to being a compliant, accountable and people’s favourite business.

What is ADA compliance?

ADA is a civil rights law and the under the Title III of this Act, businesses with a commercial website, software platform or a mobile app need to ensure that their technology offerings are accessible to everyone regardless of their disability.

In simple words, ADA compliance means that if a color blind user wants to buy an olive green t-shirt from your online store, they should be able to make the purchase with confidence and without any barriers that challenge their ability due to their disability. Your e-commerce store should accommodate the provisions that a colour blind user should not face difficulty in understanding the color of the t-shirt and doesn’t have to confirm the same with others.

The challenge can be solved with the help of a detailed description along with the color name and effective color search functionality. The framework for such remediations is provided in the WCAG. It is published through a consortium process and the current version is WCAG 2.1. It has success criteria mentioned to make a website easy to read, easy to understand and easy to operate. The success criteria are further categorized into three levels, i.e. Level A, Level AA and Level AAA, which are least to most compliant respectively.

For an e-commerce store, complying with the Level AA of the WCAG 2.1 is considered the most ideal scenario. A full list of compliance criteria can be found here.

According to Level A of WCAG 2.1, your e-commerce store should meet 20 success criteria including text alternatives for non-text content, alternatives for time-based media, keyboard operable interface and explicitly mentioned titles and descriptions. These are the basic and easy to meet criteria, whereas Level AA compliance can be achieved by adhering to 50 success criteria including text alternatives for time-based media, single display orientation, contrast ratio of 4:5:1 for text and images, text resizing provisions without assistive technology,  multiple web page locating options, and useful navigational mechanisms to make the content easily readable and operable.

Level AAA is the most difficult with 78 different success criteria. To make your e-commerce store ADA compliant according to the Level AAA of WCAG, you need to provide sign language interpretation and pre-recorded media alternatives. Level AAA requires webpages to be designed with 7:1 contrast levels and keyboard operability without any specific time requirements. No timing provisions are also required for authentication sessions and there should not be any data loss after re-authenticating. Animations or more than three flashes in a second are a strict no-no for Level AAA compliant webpage. For improved readability, the webpage should have features to expand abbreviations, meanings, and pronunciations and there should be context sensitive help available when prompted.

How to improve ADA compliance levels for your e-commerce store?

Develop a website that is consistently accessible for all. You need to follow the guidelines mentioned in the previous section. However, if you already have an e-commerce store live and are worried about its vulnerability to violations and lawsuits then you need to invest in testing and auditing. There are various software and automated tools available online that can evaluate a webpage according to the desired level of WCAG.

Software scans offer quick results, but they are only 30% accurate. It means, you can rely on a code to identify the broken links or missed tags, but you won’t be able to identify the accessibility barriers for users with cognitive disabilities. For comprehensive testing of your e-commerce store, ADA compliance manual audits are most useful. Audit specialists can thoroughly check the website and find out areas for improvement. Manual audits are highly recommended to reduce the risk of being the target of serial litigants.

A proactive approach is required to ensure you stay accessible to all. With simple steps of auditing and remediation, you can save tens of thousands of dollars on lawsuits and penalties and ensure your website is accessible to a broader range of prospective customers.

To improve accessibility and reduce the risk of ADA violations, check out the free accessibility tool here. Learn more about the benefits and the procedure of manual audits by having a word with our team of certified ADA audit specialists.