The lack of web accessibility in today’s websites and online services continues to prevent people with disabilities from fully enjoying the conveniences and benefits that the internet can offer. Consumers are now embracing online transactions more than ever. Unfortunately for the disabled, the limited number of accessible e-commerce channels excludes them from participating in the global e-commerce boom.
Jonathan Moed Contributor
I'm building startup universal.com, covering global startups.
E-commerce companies cannot ignore the importance of web accessibility. It is fundamentally the right and humane thing to do. Aside from this advocacy, there is a compelling business incentive to prioritize accessibility: working-age people with disabilities reportedly have a disposable income of about $490 billion. Additionally, web accessibility is a trending legislative topic worldwide, with national regulations increasingly pushing websites to meet accessibility standards. By overlooking web accessibility, businesses are forgoing a massive market segment, and are risking compliance issues in the process.
Calls for Wider Web Accessibility
Companies are now more than ever facing pressure to provide web accessibility to people with disabilities. Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have empowered users to demand inclusivity and force businesses to apply accessibility standards to their websites to prevent potential lawsuits. In fact, lawsuits filed against companies that fail to cater to persons with disabilities have been growing. There were at least 2,258 website accessibility lawsuits filed in 2018 alone.
One prominent case involved pizza chain Domino’s Pizza, which lost a lawsuit filed by Guillermo Robles. Robles, who is blind, was unable to successfully order pizza using both Domino’s website and app despite using screen reading software. Beauty brand Glossier was also sued by Kathleen Sypert, who claimed that she and other visually impaired users don’t have equal access to the company’s website. According to the complaint, the lack of alt-text on the website means that essential information such as product details and prices won’t be identifiable to the visually impaired even with screen reading software.
accessiBe and the Rise of Web Accessibility Solutions
For businesses, facing such lawsuits can mean significant losses in the form of legal fees and fines. Equally as damaging, if not more so, their reputations may also take a hit, resulting in the loss of customer trust.
Fortunately, web accessibility is now made easier through platforms like accessiBe. With a recent fundraising round of $12 Million and over 40,000 customers, accessiBe looks to change the status quo through the widespread adoption of its solution. It leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to comprehensively scan websites and automatically make changes to the site’s code and content to make them Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliant. accessiBe was recently tapped by e-commerce platforms Volusion and BigCommerce to automatically help make online stores created using their shopping cart software become accessible. As accessiBe CEO Shir Ekerling noted following the partnerships: “this is certainly an exciting time for us. We already have more than 43,000 clients and we're extremely happy that Volusion and BigCommerce has chosen to partner with us to bring web accessibility to more people.”
How to Become WCAG and ADA Compliant
It’s difficult to fully appreciate the value of a solution like accessiBe without understanding how many websites remain inaccessible today, and what’s required to meet accessibility standards. In a recent study analyzing 10 million web pages, accessiBe found that most sites failed to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA level compliance. This means people with disabilities may find it difficult or impossible to access these pages since their assistive devices may fail to properly process content or even navigate menus. In the study, 98% of the websites failed some element of the accessibility test.
For a website to become ADA-compliant, it must adhere to the WCAG. The WCAG, currently in version 2.1, includes a set of technical standards and success criteria that web and content developers must apply to create an accessible website. Unfortunately, following the WCAG can be a challenge. Creating an ADA-compliant website requires technical expertise. Performing the reviews and audits and the necessary remediation can also take weeks to complete. In addition, maintaining the website can mean extra workload and expenses that can put a strain on any business.
Once integrated, accessiBe transforms a webpage within a matter of hours, including:
Creating a Better Internet
With the emergence of web accessibility platforms like accessiBe, businesses are now able to easily provide offer an uncompromised web experience to people with disabilities. As accessiBe CEO Ekerling concluded: “we are fully committed in building an accessible web. We believe that an inclusive online experience is beneficial to all. By making websites accessible, we don't only make services and products available to persons with disabilities and help businesses expand their market but we also improve overall online user experience.”
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