The holiday shopping season is quickly approaching. For most business owners and entrepreneurs, it’s already here.
Holiday preparation has been ongoing for several weeks. Businesses have been getting their affairs in order in anticipation of increased shopping activity. This time of year is vital for sales, and performance during this period can make-or-break a small business.
Much of the holiday sales prep focuses on masterminding the best strategy to capitalize on the hot market through optimization, new products, revamped design, inventory, promotions and ad campaigns.
However, there is a simple, important change that e-commerce business owners should consider.
E-commerce business owners should be making their websites accessible to people with disabilities
In doing so, small business owners can expand their market reach and open up their websites to new customers who may otherwise not shop with them — or have previously decided to avoid their site.
The benefits of accessible websites are universal, providing enhanced functionality for customers with disabilities while also providing competitive business advantages. This includes:
- Reducing usability-related churn
- Mitigating litigation liability
- Enhancing market reach
- Increasing sales
Accessibility Matters for 1 in 4 Americans
Government data shows that disabilities impact everyone, if not personally then by way of friends or family. Roughly one in four Americans have a disability — 26% of the population — and age is one of the most significant contributing factors.
That’s approximately 61 million people in the U.S. who require accessibility accommodations.
For a business owner, the chances are extremely high that someone with a disability has patronized your e-commerce site. If you’ve never heard of or considered web accessibility before now, those individuals likely experienced issues and barriers while attempting to navigate your site or complete a purchase.
Most users with disabilities won’t bother trying to work around issues when they encounter them, either. Research has shown that 71% of people with disabilities leave a website within 10 seconds if they encounter an accessibility issue. All of this adds up very quickly and makes the opportunity cost of accessibility significant.
Inaccessibility is Costing Businesses Big Time
U.S. e-commerce retailers lost out on earning an estimated $828 million last holiday season due to a lack of universal design and accessibility features. Worldwide, web accessibility issues cause $16.8 billion in lost revenue annually — $38 million during Black Friday alone.
Disabilities affecting vision, hearing, cognition and motor ability all directly impact someone’s ability to use devices and access the internet. Each category of disability requires digital content to follow specific technical guidelines for people to successfully operate a website, such as alt text, closed captions, keyboard-only navigation and specific color contrast ratios.
For example, a customer who is blind or has low vision could be dependent on a screen reader to dictate your website. If there are no descriptive text alternatives programmed in association with product images, form field alerts, shopping cart icons and links, purchases will be difficult, if not impossible.
These design features are just a few laid out in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a comprehensive guidebook published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to equip developers with knowledge about accessibility and promote inclusion on the internet.
Don’t Get Sued Over Accessibility
Web accessibility isn’t just a nice gesture or smart business decision, either. The law requires your website to be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 to protect the civil rights of the disabled community by requiring equal access to places of accommodation, such as retail stores and restaurants. The legislation requires the addition of specific features such as wheelchair ramps, elevators, handrails, and Braille signage for brick-and-mortar businesses.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), all websites are subject to the ADA, and site owners must make accessibility features available. Websites that fail to provide adequate access are at greater risk of being sued and have greater liability due to steep attorney fees and settlement costs.
SMBs Are Specifically Impacted
Web accessibility disproportionately impacts small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) due to a lack of awareness of accessibility design and the resources to pursue ADA compliance and implement the gold standard WCAG elements. This means yet another area where small businesses are losing out on millions of customers to big-box chains like Target, Best Buy and Amazon, which actively engage accessibility experts year-round and partner with disability rights organizations to find and fix accessibility barriers.
Making matters worse, SMBs are falling behind and don’t even know it’s happening because they don’t have the right tools to gauge accessibility metrics.
People with disabilities are an untapped market just waiting for retailers to accommodate them. Because the holiday shopping season is critical for most retailers, even minor accessibility improvements to their websites can lead to significant gains in revenue.
SMBs can make sure their sites are fully inclusive and functional for users of all abilities by making their websites visually accessible to all. SMBs can afford accessibility solutions that help them achieve full WCAG and ADA compliance, if for no other reason than they cannot afford a lawsuit.
Lionel Wolberger has spent his career understanding the nuanced role that technology plays in global advancement. As UserWay’s COO, he connects the company’s suite of affordable, AI-powered accessibility solutions with enterprises, governments and agencies. Contact UserWay to learn about Managed Accessibility and the company’s widget, scanner, audit and PDF tool. Follow on Twitter: @UserWayOrg and @lwolberg. Lionel is also a member of the W3C standards body, where he advocates for the disability community.