Your eCommerce website should be accessible to everyone—and that includes people with disabilities. Not only is this the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, it’s also a good business practice and can prevent you from being hit with a costly lawsuit.
Just as there are wheelchair ramps in physical building locations, there are ways to optimize your eCommerce website to accommodate people with disabilities. Read on for an introduction to everything you need to know about eCommerce and ADA compliance.
The Four Principles of Accessibility
The good news is that there are clear standards outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a series of documents that explains precisely how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities.
According to the WCAG, all websites should adhere to the four principles of accessibility. They are:
- Perceivable. Users must be able to perceive the information being presented, no matter their disability.
- Operable. User interface components and navigation must be operable.
- Understandable. Users must be able to easily understand the information presented on a website, as well as the operation of the user interface.
- Robust. The content must be robust enough that it is compatible with assistive technologies and other user agents.
The idea here is that if any of the four principles don’t apply to a website, users with disabilities will not be able to use it.
Next, the WCAG outlines three different conformance levels that serve as a set of guidelines for making a website accessible.
Level A Conformance. For this most basic level of compliance, websites must satisfy the requirements outlined here. These include:
- Providing text alternatives for any non-text content
- Providing captions for all pre-recorded audio content
- Making sure that color is not used as the only visual means of conveying information
- Providing users enough time to read and use the content
- Designing content in a way that will not cause seizures or physical reactions.
Level AA Conformance. For this next level of compliance, websites must satisfy all Level A requirements, plus the Level AA requirements outlined here. These include:
- Providing captions for all live audio content
- Using a contrast ratio of at least 4:5:1 for the visual representation of all text and images of text
- Creating website headings and labels that describe a topic or purpose
- Making sure that components that have the same functionality are identified consistently.
Level AAA Compliance. For this highest level of compliance, websites must satisfy all Level A and Level AA requirements, plus the Level AAA requirements outlined here. These include:
- Providing sign language interpretation for all pre-recorded audio content
- Using a contrast ratio of at least 7:1 for the visual representation of all text and images of text
- Making sure that images of text are used only for decoration or when it’s essential to the information being presented
- Allowing users to continue activity without loss of data when they re-authenticate following the expiration of an authenticated session.
Improving the accessibility of your eCommerce website
Now that you have a better understanding of eCommerce website accessibility, it’s time to take action. Here are seven simple ways to make your website more accessible.
- Add alt text to all images on your website
- Use contrasting colors so that your content is easily readable
- Pick font sizes and styles that are easy to read, like Helvetica or Times New Roman
- Add subtitles and transcripts to any audio or video content
- Keep your content simple and conversational, with clear headlines
- Avoid UX obstacles like excessive pop-ups
Conduct regular audits for accessibility using a tool like WAVE.