There were almost 10 lawsuits filed every business day in 2020 related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and digital accessibility. In today’s thriving world of digital shopping, known brands have been putting up websites and apps for customers’ convenience, and many startups go directly to selling online instead of putting up a physical store. The convenience online stores offer also becomes the gateway to cite digital accessibility issues and file a case. Those who plan to do business online are advised to build their websites or apps as accessibility-compliant, using the industry standards set by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to avoid getting entangled with lawsuits and other legal concerns. It would be judicious for a business to consult with a lawyer to make certain it will operate with the protection of the law.

How is the ADA related to WCAG?

Title III of ADA provides for equal accessibility to all people. To be ADA-compliant, business websites must not have barriers that would impede those with disabilities from using them. eCommerce websites are required to comply with ADA standards if they have at least 15 employees, or if they run for at least 20 weeks a year. The WCAG sets the groundwork on how to make the website or app ADA-compliant and help over 60 million Americans who are living with disabilities. The WCAG uses four principles for website accessibility: it must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust to efficiently serve everyone, including the elderly and those with cognitive and physical disabilities.

Reducing risk

Non-compliance with ADA regulations may mean the possibility of lawsuits filed against companies. No industry is exempt; there have been legal proceedings started against institutions such as Compass Real Estate, HCA Holdings, MIT-Harvard, and Bank of America, to name a few. To limit exposure to litigation, startups must take the ADA Title III regulation into serious consideration, even as they are just starting to build their eCommerce sites. Once the eCommerce site is live, schedule accessibility audits and assessments regularly. Test all aspects of the site to see if they are perceivable, operable, understandable and robust in order to cater to everyone, including those with disabilities. There are professionals in the tech industry who will give support for accessibility testing, as well as specialists who can help make websites accessible.

Benefits to the business

Aside from avoiding costly lawsuits, being ADA-compliant and offering an inclusive shopping experience makes for good business. Accessibility raises the overall user experience by serving all customers, each with different needs, and using different types of gadgets. This leads to higher conversions and more sales. It improves the online visibility of the business in search engines. When a business ranks high in search engines, that leads to more visitors, increasing the likelihood of more sales and expanding the customer base. An eCommerce site that’s accessible earns a positive image, which leads to better brand exposure and gaining a wider and more diverse audience.

Designing and creating an accessible eCommerce site is a practical and prudent step to take for startups. It minimizes the litigation risks, and eventually maximizes opportunities for increased revenue.

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