A Guide to ADA Compliance for Shopify

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More and more businesses are finding themselves the center of lawsuits due to noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 2012, Netflix was sued by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) for not having the correct closed captioning on a majority of their ‘Watch Instantly’ features, and even major companies like Amazon, the number one e-Commerce website, has been sued for failing to make the necessary ADA accommodations for their clients who use screen readers.

Today, 15% of the U.S population is living with at least one type of disability, so when your Shopify site is noncompliant, you’re not only losing money and putting yourself at risk of lawsuits, you are excluding a large percent of the population. You are unintentionally denying a large number of people the chance to navigate your site and understand your product or services. 

Shopify is one of the most popular e-Commerce platforms used by online businesses, so we’ve put together a guide to help you understand how you can achieve ADA compliance for Shopify. But first, let’s discuss some of the most common complaints e-Commerce businesses receive from disabled consumers.

5 Common Mistakes Websites Make Concerning ADA Compliance

According to Capitol Tech Solutions, the top 5 most common complaints regarding website accessibility are missing image text, not enough contrast between colors, no keyboard navigation, missing descriptive link text, and missing ARIA. 

Missing Image Text 

Screen readers are often used by clients who suffer from vision impairments. Unfortunately these readers can’t identify and describe a picture on their own, so they rely on alternative (or ALT) text that’s been put into place. Failure to include this text means that your visually impaired consumers won’t know there is an image associated with the text on your site.

Not Enough Contrast Between Colors

Insufficient color contrast can affect your potential clients who have vision impairments. One key thing for e-Commerce businesses to take note of, is that they should not rely solely on color to depict a product or service. 

No Keyboard Navigation

Clients with motor or visual impairments often rely on their keyboard to navigate through websites, rather than a mouse. You can tell if your site is compliant with keyboard navigation by using the tab key to navigate through the text. Boxes of text should be highlighted by a blue box if the site has been designed correctly.

Missing Descriptive Link Text

Descriptive link text helps clients who use screen readers. Visually-impaired consumers can easily navigate your site and determine which link(s) they want to click on by using descriptive language to describe your links.

Missing Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA)

These landmark roles make website interfaces more accessible for the disabled. They help those who use assistive technology to jump easily between blocks of content without needing to scroll or use a mouse. 

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Knowing the most common complaints and addressing those first is a great place to start when it comes to making sure that your website is ADA compliant. 

However, the ADA does not have its own guidelines for web accessibility. Therefore, the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium put together a trusted set of guidelines.

To avoid a potential lawsuit, it is best to make sure that your website meets all Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as well, and the first place to start would be completing a website audit for each of the WCAG requirements. 

The main focus for WCAG includes readability and alternative navigation options – two things that directly relate to the five most common complaints regarding website accessibility. You can reference the WCAG Quick Reference for a more in-depth look into each guideline.

ADA Compliance and Shopify

If your business uses Shopify, it is important to know that at the moment, Shopify does not offer any built-in ADA accessibility programs. Luckily, here are two ways you can achieve ADA compliance for Shopify.

  1. Shopify will direct you to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and you can code the website yourself. Or, if you are an inexperienced coder, you can hire a developer to do the work for you. 
  1. You can add a plug-in or widget from Shopify – however, most of the free ones will not make your website fully accessible, so you will likely need to do more coding and website editing in anyways in order to meet all the ADA requirements. 

Wrap-Up

At the end of the day, the responsibility of being ADA compliant is yours as the owner of your Shopify store. Though it may appear to be a hassle at first, keeping your e-Commerce store accessible is going to save you even more time and money down the road. You will be expanding your potential customer base and protecting yourself from expensive lawsuits.

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