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Introduction to Web Accessibility for Retailers

Karl Groves. - 04/06/2024

In today’s digital age, the retail industry is more competitive than ever. Retailers strive to provide the best possible shopping experience for their customers, but many overlook a crucial aspect: web accessibility. An accessible website ensures that all customers, including those with disabilities, can navigate and use the site effectively. Retailers with inaccessible websites not only risk losing a significant portion of potential revenue but also face the possibility of legal repercussions.

The Financial Impact of Inaccessible Websites

Lost Revenue Opportunities

Retailers who fail to make their websites accessible are missing out on a substantial market segment. According to the World Health Organization, over 1 billion people worldwide have some form of disability. In the United States alone, the disposable income of people with disabilities is estimated to be over $490 billion. By not providing an accessible shopping experience, retailers are effectively turning away a significant number of potential customers, leading to lost sales and reduced market share.

Legal Risks and Costs

In addition to lost revenue, retailers with inaccessible websites face considerable legal risks. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that businesses, including online retailers, provide equal access to their services. Non-compliance with the ADA can result in costly lawsuits. For example, companies such as Target and Winn-Dixie have faced significant legal challenges due to the inaccessibility of their websites.

State-level laws, such as California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, further emphasize the importance of web accessibility. The Unruh Act stipulates that all business establishments must provide full and equal accommodations to individuals with disabilities. Non-compliance can lead to additional lawsuits and financial penalties.

Upcoming European Accessibility Act

The enforcement of the European Accessibility Act (EAA) in 2025 adds another layer of urgency for retailers to ensure their websites are accessible. The EAA aims to harmonize accessibility requirements across the European Union, impacting a wide range of products and services, including retail websites. Retailers who fail to comply with these regulations risk not only legal action but also the loss of access to the lucrative European market.

Challenges Faced by People with Disabilities on Retail Websites

Difficulty in Searching for Products

One of the primary challenges people with disabilities face on retail websites is searching for products. Many retail websites are not optimized for screen readers, making it difficult for visually impaired users to navigate search functions and product categories. Moreover, poor contrast, small fonts, and complex navigation menus can hinder users with visual and cognitive impairments from effectively finding the products they need.

Issues with Selecting the Right Product

Selecting the right product is another significant challenge. Detailed product descriptions, images, and specifications are often not accessible to all users. For example, individuals with visual impairments may rely on screen readers to access product information, but if the website’s images lack alternative text (alt text) or if the descriptions are not properly structured, the screen reader cannot convey the necessary information. Additionally, individuals with motor impairments may struggle with interactive elements such as dropdown menus and sliders, which are commonly used for selecting product options.

Barriers to the Purchasing Process

The purchasing process on many retail websites poses significant barriers to people with disabilities. The checkout process often involves multiple steps, requiring users to fill out forms, enter payment information, and confirm orders. If these forms are not accessible or if the website lacks proper keyboard navigation, individuals with visual, motor, or cognitive disabilities may find it challenging to complete their purchase. Furthermore, error messages that do not provide clear guidance on how to fix issues can frustrate users and lead to abandoned shopping carts.

Best Practices for Enhancing Web Accessibility

Implementing WCAG Guidelines

To address these challenges, retailers should adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). These guidelines provide a comprehensive set of recommendations for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Key aspects of WCAG include ensuring text alternatives for non-text content, making all functionality available from a keyboard, and providing sufficient time for users to read and use content.

Conducting Regular Accessibility Audits

Regular accessibility audits are essential for identifying and addressing accessibility issues on retail websites. These audits involve evaluating the website against established accessibility standards and guidelines, using both automated tools and manual testing. By conducting regular audits, retailers can ensure that their websites remain accessible and compliant with relevant laws and regulations.

Involving Users with Disabilities in Testing

Involving users with disabilities in the testing process is crucial for gaining valuable insights into the usability of the website. These users can provide feedback on specific challenges they encounter and suggest practical solutions. Retailers can conduct usability testing sessions with individuals who have different types of disabilities to ensure that the website meets the diverse needs of all users.

Providing Training for Web Developers

Training web developers on accessibility best practices is another important step toward creating accessible retail websites. Developers should be familiar with accessibility standards and guidelines and understand how to implement them effectively. Providing ongoing training and resources can help ensure that accessibility is integrated into the development process from the outset.


Web accessibility is not just a legal obligation but also a business imperative for retailers. Inaccessible websites can result in significant financial losses due to missed revenue opportunities and costly lawsuits. Moreover, upcoming regulations such as the European Accessibility Act highlight the increasing importance of accessibility on a global scale. By addressing the specific challenges faced by people with disabilities—such as difficulties in searching for products, selecting the right product, and navigating the purchasing process—retailers can create a more inclusive shopping experience for all customers.

If you’re a retailer looking to enhance your website’s accessibility, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more information. Our team of experts is here to help you navigate the complexities of web accessibility and ensure that your website is accessible to all users. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in making your retail website accessible and compliant with current and future regulations.

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