In recent years, the internet has become more of a necessity than a luxury. It governs almost all aspects of our lives, including our disabilities. In this regard, web accessibility has a huge role to play in enabling the disabled to use the internet.
The increased demand for web accessibility indicates that businesses want to provide equal opportunities and access to all their customers, including the disabled ones. It can also help the disabled become more active socially. You need to incorporate web accessibility in your e-store not just as goodwill, but also because it makes perfect business sense.
It is vital for all businesses to have a solid web presence. Web accessibility helps you create stellar user experiences as it overlaps with web design and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices. By incorporating web accessibility, you can also steer clear of ADA lawsuits and tap into a wider consumer base.
Let’s see what web accessibility is and how it can benefit your business.
What Is Web Accessibility?
According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), website accessibility comprises designing websites, tools, and technologies that people with disabilities can use. Disabled users should be able to perceive, understand, navigate, interact, and contribute to the website.
Essentially, website accessibility is a part of designing for inclusion, which is the global movement that aims to make the entire web accessible to everyone, including disabled users. It embodies the idea that all web technologies should be available to everyone.
In the context of e-commerce, web accessibility focuses on people with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual impairments. Let’s see why making your website accessible to these people is necessary.
Why It Matters for E-commerce?
Incorporating accessibility in your e-commerce store can bring you more than a few benefits. Here are three of the most significant ones.
Avoiding ADA Lawsuits
Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which monitors the provision of accessibility in the USA, is less clear on the topic of website accessibility, ADA lawsuits are on the rise. These lawsuits swamped the federal courts in 2018 and 2019, and the trend is expected to continue in 2020.
According to Seyfarth law firm, the number of ADA Title III lawsuits filed in federal courts by the end of November 2019 (10,206) surpassed the number of such lawsuits filed in all of 2018 (10,163). California had around 43% lawsuits, followed by New York (24%) and Florida (18%). The survey also states that businesses are not likely to see any relief from such lawsuits in 2020.
The penalties for violating ADA regulations may not be severe. However, they can cause immutable damage to your brand reputation. If your brand gets slapped with an ADA lawsuit, the news will spread on social media like wildfire. That, in turn, may result in losing a substantial number of customers, perhaps permanently.
As a result, you should take extra precautions to make your e-commerce website accessible. Make sure all your potential customers get equal opportunities to enjoy the products and services you are selling online. As a start, you perform website accessibility testing to see how disabled-friendly your online store is and the steps you need to take.
Another critical but mostly unacknowledged benefit of website accessibility is the improvement in your Search Engine Optimization or SEO efforts. Several SEO best practices and web accessibility steps often overlap, resulting in mutual benefit.
Navigation and Website Structure
Website accessibility requires you to have a logical and easy-to-navigate website structure. It is also one of the requirements of a comprehensive SEO plan. That’s why including breadcrumb navigation, clear site structure, and sitemaps on your website can benefit both.
Image Alt Text
You also need to use descriptive Alt Text to make the images on your accessible to visually impaired users. However, it is also a fundamental SEO principle. Descriptive and keyword-optimized Alt Text helps search engines understand the full context. So, it also increases your search engine visibility.
When it comes to accessibility, video transcripts allow visually impaired and deaf users to interact with the media. While deaf users can read the transcript to understand the dialogues, visually impaired users will use screen readers to do the same. Google will, of course, use the video transcript to rank your video content based on relevance.
To help all disabled users understand the content better, you have to make it more readable. So, you will need to use short and simple sentences, provide definitions for technical terms, and use keywords naturally in the content.
Increased readability will also contribute to better search engine discoverability. Furthermore, it will encourage users to stay longer on your website, which is one of the engagement factors that Google considers when ranking your content.
Tapping into Wider Customer Base
E-commerce is one of the most competitive industries out there. As a result, you need to delight and retain as many customers as you can. You certainly can’t afford to miss out on any of your existing customers.
Unfortunately, that’s what you are doing by forgetting about your disabled consumers. In the UK, for example, there are more than 13 million disabled people with an estimated disposable income of around £249 billion a year. Unfortunately, 75% of disabled people have had to leave a store or website as it was not accessible.
On the other hand, in the United States, the total disposable income for working-age (ages 16 to 64) people with disabilities is about $490 billion, which remains a sizable sum. If your website lacks accessibility, you are losing millions of dollars of annual revenue.
Accessibility Goes beyond Website
Web accessibility is not limited to your website alone. In fact, your online store is just the beginning. It should extend to all of your online sales points and marketing channels. That means your emails, social media, and landing pages also need to be accessible.
Imagine a scenario where you send an inaccessible email to all your prospects, including disabled people. However, as they will be unable to read your email, the enticing Christmas shopping offer will never reach them. Making it accessible will help you attract a ton of more traffic; even turn some of the new customers into loyal fans.
Similarly, making your social media and landing pages accessible can help you attract disabled users from across the globe. In other words, you need to start thinking about web accessibility, whether you are setting up a social media campaign or revamping your online store.
Making your website accessible will not only protect you from a potentially damaging ADA lawsuit, but also amplify your SEO efforts and help you tap into a wider consumer base. It will provide all your customers with a seamless shopping experience. In short, it is an investment worth making, especially in a time when online shopping is likely to pick up. So, when do you start testing and planning for web accessibility? Tell us in the comments section.