Ecommerce ignores those with disabilities.
We tend to think that all of our visitors have perfect eyesight and perfectly capable limbs and ears that work as expected.
Obviously, it’s not true. According to the World Bank:
- One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability, and disability prevalence is higher for developing countries.
- One-fifth of the estimated global total, or between 110 million and 190 million people, experience significant disabilities.
Disability Statistics in the United States
Here’s a more specific look at the number of people in the United States who could find their way to your website and who also live with various disabilities:
- As of 2016, an estimated 3.8 million people aged 21 to 64 years were blind or had serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses
- Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing
- The number of people living with cognitive disabilities in the United States is equal to twice the population of New York City.
Why Care? Are You an Asshole?
Technologies that assists the disabled have evolved considerably. And now it’s time that ecommerce becomes inclusive. Yes, you gain a very largely ignored market, but it’s also just the right thing to do. I have known a few disabled people (including my own sister) who struggle with equipment and technology that is designed for the able-bodied majority. Think about it: would you be able to go about your business blindfolded? With both hands tied behind your back? No. No, you would not. So stop thinking about yourself and show some fucking empathy.
And You Can Be Sued
The ADA is actually the law. No joke. And you can enter litigation hell if you do not comply. As an example: some of the 3.8 million people mentioned above with visual impairments may use a screen reader to consume text in the HTML code of web pages, to translate it into audible speech. If text is not embedded in image properties (using alt tags), this could render the content inaccessible to visually impaired users, violating the Equality Act of 2010. — (source).
Lack of Compliance is Considered Discrimination
Given these numbers, if your website is not accessible to those with disabilities, you are leaving out a significant portion of the population. And when these users can’t easily access your website, they will go somewhere else, even if it means paying more for a service or product.
You know that discrimination against people with disabilities is against the law, so don’t do it.
My initial results seem promising but also troubling.
I set about to understand what this means and was immersed in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). There are similar global, national and industry-specific standards. I’m focusing on the ADA in this case because it’s the broadest and most applicable to my audience. So, since I’m locked down here in Los Angeles, I had a ton of time to spend learning. Here’s what I found:
There are, as far as I can understand (not being a pro in this field), there a few ways you can make your site easily accessible to the disabled.
- You can pay a firm to audit, fix and certify your site with authority ($)
- Run a self-compliance test and then have it certified ($)
- Diagnose, fix and self-certify (NO $)
- The paid audit & fix option is great if you’ve got a few thousand + to spend on crafting your own response through a legal team and having your site certified globally.
- The self-compliance route is cheaper, but you will have to get pretty sophisticated with your coding.
- Being lazy and slowly going crazy self-quarantining, I went the easiest route: self-certification. I chose EqualWeb. The self-diagnostic tool was easy, comprehensive and accurate. Better yet, they fix your mistakes with a code insertion. A Chrome extension is helpful and they have a FREE plan which allows you to enter this confusing subject, understand it and offer options. Well done, EqualWeb!
I’m purposefully not endorsing any company here simply because I have not done exhaustive research on each that would let me do so with confidence.