With global eCommerce sales expected to reach $6.4 trillion by 2024, there has never been a better time to jump into the fray and try to capture a portion of that incredible consumer spending. And now that eCommerce platforms like Shopify have entered the arena, people from all walks of life can easily set up a store in a matter of minutes.
When it comes to building their stores, however, most website owners tend to focus solely on maximizing profits by selecting the right products and services and optimizing things like copy and design. Unfortunately, this means that the vast majority of stores fail to make adequate provisions for disabled customers, exposing them to potential ADA lawsuits.
What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that went into effect in the United States in 1990. The law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places open to the public. The law’s objective is to guarantee that people with disabilities have equal access to the same rights and opportunities as those without.
The way the ADA is applied to web accessibility began to change as the internet became more important and websites played a larger role in how consumers interact with businesses. Since 2017, there has been a clear consensus that ADA also applies to the online world. Today, US courts apply ADA accessibility requirements to the online domain, implying that websites follow ADA guidelines. As a result, ADA compliance for Shopify stores is the same for any other website or physical business space.
Why you should care about accessibility
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the internet remains inaccessible for those with disabilities. As it turns out, eCommerce sites tend to be the worst offenders in this area, since most owners build template stores without considering the level of accessibility that their sites offer. Here are four key reasons why ADA compliance should become a top priority for your Shopify store.
Reach a wider user base
Disabled people make up the largest minority in the world. According to the World Health Organization, over one billion people currently live with some form of disability, which equates to 15% of the global population. On top of this, the Return on Disability Group estimates that those with disabilities (as well as their family, friends, and advocates) control over $13 trillion in annual disposable income.
As a business owner, this should immediately prick your ears, as $13 trillion is a whole boatload of cash that you would be shutting your business off from if you fail to make adequate provisions to accommodate these users. So, instead of fine tweaking your copy or finding new images for your products, the best use of your time, and the one that provides the best ROI, could easily be opening your site to those with disabilities, so you can reach a wider audience.
Over the past few years, more awareness has been brought to the issue of online accessibility, especially as social justice movements such as diversity, equity, and inclusion become more of a focal point. As a result, thousands of ADA-based lawsuits were filed against businesses in 2021.
Now, it appears as though the precedent has been set, which means that it’s very likely that these numbers will continue to rise until store owners are sufficiently incentivized to do the right thing and bring their stores up to compliance. As a Shopify store owner, the onus is to protect your business from these lawsuits.
Improve the user experience
When building a store that is accessible for disabled users, you will also be improving the user experience for all of your visitors, not just those with impairments. One of the key factors in making a successful eCommerce business is to simplify the customer buying journey as much as possible. If your site is difficult to navigate, has unclear language, or does not function as it should, then you will almost certainly be losing sales unnecessarily. Therefore, prioritizing web accessibility for all users is a great way to boost revenue and increase your overall ROI.
Builds positive PR
Last but not least, being seen to prioritize web accessibility is a great way to give your store some much-needed positive publicity that can help foster a more inclusive and respectable brand. After all, it’s very likely that you aren’t the only Shopify store selling your products. In many ways, one of the few ways to diversify yourself and set yourself apart from the competition is by building your brand and appealing to consumers through shared values, morals, and ethics. Prioritizing web accessibility is a great way to do that.
Do the right thing
Despite the fact that building a more accessible website can provide you with more opportunities to boost revenue and increase ROI, making accommodations for your disabled users is simply the right thing to do. The ADA was brought into existence so that those with disabilitie are not excluded from public services and the products offered by businesses, which is something that we should all be striving to achieve, especially business owners.