ADA Compliance for eCommerce

Taking proactive steps to bring your eCommerce website into ADA compliance will avoid potential future lawsuits. Celerant offers ADA compliance audits as well as automated tools and website overlays through our partner accessiBe. Contact us today to discuss what option is best for your business.

This is a short clip from the Client Conference session; full recording is accessible from client site.

ADA Compliance for eCommerce 

When did ADA compliance begin to pertain to websites?

The ADA is nothing new, having been signed into law in July of 1990, most retailers are aware of the law and understand the basics of compliance as it relates to their brick & mortar stores. However, in 2017 a suit was brought against a retailer claiming their website discriminated against the plaintiff who is blind. The court ruled in the plaintiff's favor, which established that the website was a 'service to public accommodation' and opened the door for future suits to be brought against retail websites. Review Case

Are retailers really being sued for their websites?

Unfortunately, yes, they are.  The number of ADA lawsuits filed in federal court expanded dramatically in 2019 topping 11,000 nationwide and most reports indicate at least 25% of those lawsuits are specific to website compliance. Whats more, while most of these cases are settled outside of court it is common for a retailer to receive multiple suits after the first is settled if they remain out of compliance.   

Are all eCommerce websites required to be ADA compliant? 

There is a lot of ambiguity in which businesses are required to be compliant because there is not currently a law on the books to specifically address compliance standards of websites owned by private companies. Instead, the laws originally written for physical locations are being used to legislate websites under the premise that websites are 'places of public accommodation'.  So while all websites may be required to become complaint, the majority of the lawsuits filed have been filed against retailers who also have at least 1 brick & mortar location and 15 or more employees. 

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

As mentioned previously, there is no federal law on the books to outline exactly what determines ADA compliance in regards to websites. Therefore, no agency or company can certify your site as compliant or non-compliant. What we do have is a set of guidelines published and maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium(W3C). These guidelines known as the web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) have become the defacto standard for ADA conformance.

4 Principles of Accessibility

The W3C maintains a comprehensive website listing all guidelines, however in general conformance is broken into 4 'principles of accessibility' to determine the ability for those using screen readers and other assistive technologies to use your website.

  • Perceivable - Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
  • Operable - User interface components and navigation must be operable
  • Understandable - Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
  • Robust - Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a awide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

WCAG Conformance Levels

The 4 principles listed above are used to determine a website's level of conformance, which consists of 3 different levels.

  • Level A: This is the most basic level of conformance and is considered a minimal level of accessibility, but does not necessarily protect you from potential ADA lawsuits.
  • Level AA: Achieving this level of compliance is often the end goal most compliance projects. AA conformance indicates your website addresses the most common issues for disabled users.
  • Level AAA: The highest level of compliance, dealing with almost all potential barriers for disabled visitors. It is very difficult, and often impossible, to achieve this level of compliance across an entire website as certain content types are not able to be made AAA complaint.

Compliance Solutions

While it is possible to make most of the website changes to achieve ADA compliance in house, many retailers don’t have the time or resources needed to devote to achieving, and most importantly, maintaining compliance. That is why Celerant offers clients 2 different solutions to help get and keep your eCommerce site ADA compliant.

The first is a website audit performed by an experienced member of our web team. The front, and back end, of each page on your website will be looked at to identify potential areas of liability. Once the audit is completed, a plan will be put into place to make the corrective changes to the website. We will also advise you & your team on how to maintain that compliance when new products or other additions or changes to your site need to be made.

The second option we are now offering is what is referred to as a ‘website overlay’. This overlay, developed by our partner accessiBe, is installed on our site and will automatically make the necessary changes to achieve ADA compliance. The overlay uses artificial intelligence to better understand the content, including images, on your site so all of the ALT tags, CSS, forms, menus, buttons and other site elements can be automatically adjusted to allow for easier navigation using screen readers and other accessibility tools. This scan will be run daily to ensure that all changes or additions you make to your site will remain in compliance. The accessiBe overlay will also install an accessibility interface on the front end of your site. This allows visitors to your site to adjust elements such as font size, colors, contrast and cursors based on their individual needs so they can shop your site comfortably.

As you can see, ADA compliance can be a complicated topic, but our team is here to help. Contact us, and we will walk you through the different options you have available and help decide which is best for your business; whether that be an in house compliance project, an audit done by our team, a combination of both or the accessiBe overlay.

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If you have questions on ADA compliance, website audits or other general questions please fill out the form below and a member of our team will contact you.