In part one of this two-part series, the challenges of creating regulation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it relates to ecommerce were addressed. While most acknowledge the importance of website accessibility, regulation is ambiguous and somewhat confusing under the provisions of Title III of the ADA. Unfortunately, this has led to more than 300 lawsuits filed in or removed to federal court over the past two years.
One of the most notable issues is the extremely fast-paced growth of and change in ecommerce. In haste, many retailers focus on the ideal user and may overlook the principle of inclusivity. The following best practices will help retailers proactively address this time-sensitive issue.
Consider Title III of the ADA as a Site Build Strategy
While part one of this series discussed how the ADA is subjective and far from easy to understand, a good place to start is taking a proactive approach to familiarize yourself with the law and consider it as part of your site build strategy. For example, take steps to ensure your website works with assistive technologies like screen readers for the blind or partially sighted.
Keep Your Entire Customer Base in Mind
One in five U.S. citizens has some form of disability according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Twenty percent is a statistically significant subset of potential customers. Although not all disabilities require a website to be accessible to be used by such persons, there is a significant subset of the population, particularly blind and deaf people, who would be precluded from using a website and purchasing products if it is not designed with accessibility in mind.
Use Current Web Standards as a Baseline for a Compliant Site
The World Wide Web Consortium ("W3C") has developed the WCAG 2.0 guidelines in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world with a goal of proving a single shared standard for web content accessibility. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) generally accepts these standards as a baseline for accessibility.
Twelve guidelines are organized under four principals:
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content
- Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia
- Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard
- Give users enough time to read and use content
- Do not use content that causes seizures
- Help users navigate and find content
- Make text readable and understandable
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes
- Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools
Don't Forget the Role That Mobile Plays
Few need convincing that mobile plays a significant role on the ecommerce path to purchase and that a multiplatform approach is essential to retail success. According to a report from Adobe, Cyber Monday 2016, the biggest day in the history of U.S. ecommerce, saw mobile sales totaling $1.07 billion, a 34 percent increase over 2015. And the DOJ has required through settlement agreements that companies make their mobile apps accessible too.
Create Don't Code
Recoding an entire ecommerce website so that it meets accessibility standards can seem like an overwhelming task, both time-consuming and costly. But, there are tools and services that are widely available to help efficiently create an accessible website - without coding. Typically, using drag-and-drop functionality to create ecommerce experiences - whether it's a full blown website, lookbook or campaign landing page - shifts the build process from the technical to the creative realm. These experiences are also easy to update, making the process of iteration cheaper in terms of time spent.
Being proactive with building accessibility into a website's design will not only help avoid litigation but may expand the market for the business's products and services. Recognizing those consumers who may not have had the ability to previously engage with your company online also will increase brand awareness and goodwill.
About the Authors
Lindsay Moore is vice president, strategy, at Zmags. A thought leader on shoppable content, she creates primary research about online content conversion strategies that drive revenue and meaningful brand engagements. Lindsay also advises retailers on how to improve their conversion rates through rich shoppable experiences. For more information on Zmags, please visit their website and follow the company on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Gonzalo Mon, Partner at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, helps clients with all aspects of advertising and promoting their brands. He works creatively with clients to ensure that their campaigns advance their business goals, while complying with laws that are often unclear. Gonzalo drafts and negotiates the agreements that underlie many of his client's marketing campaigns. He also advises clients about how the ADA applies in the digital space, and he has negotiated several settlements involving website accessibility.
Crystal Skelton, Senior Associate at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, represents a wide array of clients - from tech startups to established companies - in privacy and data security, advertising and marketing, and other consumer protection matters. Crystal also helps companies balance legal risks and business objectives to minimize the potential for regulator, competitor or consumer challenge. In addition, Crystal assist clients in complying with accessibility standards and regulations implementing the ADA, including counseling companies on website accessibility. She has negotiated several settlements involving website accessibility.