A Merchant’s Guide to Navigating Accessibility on Shopify
Shopify is a popular e-commerce platform that makes it easy for entrepreneurs to create and set up an online store. Before you’re ready to invite your first customer in, you’ll want to make sure your Shopify store is accessible to everyone. That way, you’re welcoming all customers.
This article will walk you through Shopify accessibility. We’ll talk about accessibility basics, user experience for people with disabilities who are shopping online, how Shopify fares when it comes to accessibility, and the steps you can take to improve your corner of the internet’s commercial hub.
More Than Retail Therapy: The Importance of Accessible Purchasing
The dynamic evolution of the digital exchange started when the first computers went online and connected to each other, a pivotal moment that sparked a faster pace for so much of society. People began to communicate with each other more quickly and easily. Information grew to be readily available at a point and click. Education became more available and affordable. Entertainment unfolded at our fingertips. And, in the marketplace of ideas, a rather loud voice was heard. “We want to shop! We want it now, we want it at our doorstep, and we’d like to choose from thousands of options without rolling out of bed. Thanks.”
The internet has significantly changed the way human beings buy and sell. Sometimes digital hunting and gathering is simply more convenient. We all enjoy the rush of a surprise delivery. But it’s a lot deeper than that little boost of material joy. In certain circumstances, online shopping is a critical service. It can actually be a lifesaving alternative to brick and mortar stores. During emergencies or shortages, or for people in remote locations, an online supplier may be their sole source of food, medicine, or other basics. Given this reality, it is essential that online shop owners and admins step up to make sure that online platforms are reliably accessible to everyone, paying attention to including individuals with disabilities.
Who Needs Accessible Online Shopping?
As a business owner, you do. And, as users and virtual mall crawlers, we all do, because accessibility improvements create a better user experience for all users.
That’s besides for the obvious reason we all need accessibility: it is the right thing to do. As human beings, we should be expected to remove obstacles that create an unwelcoming environment, so all users can access the content we provide.
Adding accessibility to your e-commerce site is a win-win. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 10 people in the world has a disability. This means that there are over 1 billion people with disabilities who could benefit from accessible websites. And that’s not counting their friends, family, and circles of influence.
A 2016 report by Return On Disability found that the global disability purchasing market is worth an estimated $8 trillion (yes, TRILLION) US dollars. That’s a lot of zeroes after the dollar sign. This market is made up of the personal disposable income of people with disabilities, as well as the funds that they may steer or impact, such as money that their friends and family spend on them. We must also assume that the rapidly growing global disability purchasing market has grown significantly since that report. The world’s aging population, the increasing prevalence of chronic and long-term disease, and a burgeoning awareness of the needs and rights of people with disabilities do contribute, and are likely to have greatly expanded, this market and its purchasing power.
The disability purchasing market is a force to be reckoned with. It represents a significant source of income for businesses and governments, and it provides opportunities for employment and economic empowerment for people with disabilities.
Businesses would be wise to take note. Organizations that want to tap into the disability purchasing market need to make their products and services accessible to people with disabilities. This includes providing clear and concise information, using high-contrast colors, and making it easy to navigate websites and apps.
Shopify’s Accessibility Rating: How Does it Measure Up?
Overall, Shopify is a good choice for businesses that want to create an accessible e-commerce store. It has a number of built-in accessibility features and is compatible with quite a few accessibility plugins. While WCAG 2.2 is on the way, it has not yet been released as of today, and the highest accessibility standards anyone can be expected to follow are the WCAG’s 2.1 set of guidelines, generally at the AA level, which includes the basic A level. Triple-A WCAG accessibility is a nice-to-have, but is not strictly necessary.
Please do note that no e-commerce platform is completely accessible, even with all possible native accessibility plugins, external overlays, and more. It is always important to thoroughly test your store for accessibility issues, if possible using expert services and disability testers, and make necessary changes.
|Summary||Shopify offers a number of built-in accessibility features, such as alt text for images, keyboard navigation, and contrast ratio. It also provides themes and templates that comply with WCAG 2.1 guidelines.||WooCommerce is another popular e-commerce platform. It does not have as many built-in accessibility features as Shopify, but it does offer a number of plugins that can be used to improve accessibility.||BigCommerce is a newer e-commerce platform that offers a variety of accessibility features, including alt text for images, keyboard navigation, and color contrast.||Magento is a more complex e-commerce platform that offers a wider range of features, including accessibility features. However, it can be more difficult to use than some of the other platforms.|
|Built-in Accessibility Features||Alt text for images, keyboard navigation, contrast ratio||Alt text for images, keyboard navigation||Alt text for images, keyboard navigation, color contrast||Alt text for images, keyboard navigation, color contrast|
|Platform-Compatible Accessibility Plugins||Accessible Navigation: This plugin adds a skip to main content button and a keyboard navigation menu to your Shopify store. Plus, there’s also a color contrast checker option, so you can make sure your store’s text and images are available to people with low vision or color blindness.|
WCAG 2.1 Accessibility: This plugin helps you make your Shopify store compliant with WCAG 2.1 guidelines. It also makes it easier to navigate your Shopify store using only a keyboard.
Accessibility Insights: This plugin provides you with a report on the accessibility of your Shopify store.
|WooCommerce Accessibility: This plugin adds a skip to main content button and a keyboard navigation menu to your WooCommerce store.WCAG 2.1 Ready: This plugin helps you to make your WooCommerce store compliant with WCAG 2.1 accessibility guidelines.|
Accessibility Scanner: This plugin scans your WooCommerce store for accessibility issues.
Keyboard Navigation: This plugin makes it easier for people to navigate your WooCommerce store using only their keyboard.
Color Contrast Checker: This plugin checks the color contrast of your WooCommerce store’s text and images to make sure it is accessible to people with color vision deficiency.
|BigCommerce Accessibility: This plugin adds a skip to main content button and a keyboard navigation menu to your BigCommerce store. A color contrast checker is also included, making it easy for your store’s text and images to be seen by people with limited vision or color vision deficiency.|
WCAG 2.1 Overlay: This plugin overlays a checklist of WCAG 2.1 accessibility guidelines on your BigCommerce store, so you can easily see which guidelines you have met and which ones you need to work on.
Accessibility Scanner: This plugin scans your BigCommerce store for accessibility issues.Keyboard Navigation: This plugin makes it easier for people to navigate your BigCommerce store using only their keyboard.
|Magento Accessibility: This plugin adds a skip to main content button and a keyboard navigation menu to your Magento store. There is also an option to scan your Magento store for accessibility issues. And, note that this plugin can also check for color contrast, so that you can ensure the text and images on your store are accessible for individuals who have poor vision or any level of color blindness.|
WCAG 2.1 Checker: This plugin checks your Magento store for compliance with WCAG 2.1 accessibility guidelines.
Keyboard Navigation: This plugin makes it easier for people to navigate your Magento store using only their keyboard.
We must also mention that there are many other accessibility plugins and overlays available for each platform, besides what we’ve added here. You can find an up-to-date list of these plugins by searching the web, or by contacting the specific platform’s support team.
It is essential to choose the right plugins and overlays for your store. The best plugins and overlays will depend on the specific accessibility issues that you need to address.
You should also test your store regularly to make sure that the plugins and overlays are working properly. You can do this by using a web accessibility testing tool, or by hiring an accessibility professional, if that’s in budget.
Taking these steps will help make your e-commerce store accessible to everyone.
Best Practices in Making Your Shopify Store Accessible
In addition to using Shopify’s built-in accessibility features and accessibility-compatible themes and templates, plus the variety of available external accessibility add-ons like plugins, overlays, and scanners, there are several other things you can do to make your Shopify store more accessible.
Some of these best practices include:
Use clear and concise text
Keep it understandable and easy to read. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that people may not be familiar with.
Use high-contrast colors
When choosing colors for text and background elements, consider not just the colors themselves, but how they interact with each other. That is, black on white is a great color contrast choice, but black text on a dark blue background is not. Using high-contrast colors will make your store’s content easier to read for people with low vision.
Provide alternative text for images
Adding clear, descriptive, relevant alternative text for all images helps people who cannot see the images understand what they are about.
Make sure keyboard navigation works well
Your store should be set up to be navigated using only a keyboard, by using correct code and logical order that flows with the page order. This makes it easier for people with mobility impairments to use your store, and it is important for people who are blind, as well.
Test your store with assistive technology
Try getting through your store using assistive technology, such as screen readers and magnifiers. Your ease of use and rate of success will help you identify any accessibility issues that need to be addressed.
Accessibility is a Work in Progress
You’ve already built your website, or web application. It’s live. You missed an important step in accessibility, or perhaps you ignored accessibility standards and regulations altogether. Now what?
Don’t panic. Start where you are.
You can’t always go back and start again. But you can review what you have, and see what steps you can take to make it better.
Disability inclusion and digital accessibility are not only works in progress, they’re a moving target. And that’s a good thing, believe it or not. As our technical abilities and offerings grow, and as governments raise standards for accessibility and promote accessibility policies, what online shop owners and website administrators need to do will change. It’s a challenge, but it’s one we’re all up for. Growth is good, change is good. We’ll work in the moment and build better accessibility in our current state, knowing that we’ll do better as we move along. And yes, the next big thing you plan will consider accessibility from its jumping-off point, just because that’s faster, easier, and better all around. For now, let’s get the ball rolling and count on the ripple effect to amplify our efforts.
Benefits of Accessible Design
There are many benefits to having an accessible website, including:
- Improved customer satisfaction and loyalty: Accessible websites are more user-friendly and accessible to everyone. This has been proven to lead to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty, in the general public as well as for your users who have disabilities.
- Increased sales: Accessible websites can reach a wider audience. This leads to increased sales.
- Legal compliance: In many countries, there are legal requirements for websites to be accessible. By making your website accessible, you can avoid legal liability, the embarrassment of an accessibility lawsuit, and the risk of financial damages.
- Expansion into new markets: Accessible websites can help you expand into new markets, such as the growing demographic of people with disabilities, as well as their circles of influence.
Accessibility is Non-Negotiable in Today’s World
Online stores are a key factor for reaching a wider audience and growing sales, for businesses of all sizes. Once your virtual emporium goes live, you want to open it up for all people. This works from a business perspective, and from a do-it-right point of view. But what if you don’t?
Too many digital shops are not at all disability-friendly, and yes, that definitely does include several of the bigger e-tailers. This lack of accessibility presents a major unnecessary barrier for people who require disability-related accommodations, or those who are using assistive devices. These folks may not be able to access or navigate a lot of popular digital stores or apps.
The flip side of the fun stuff online is when our built-in expectations of speed and satisfaction aren’t met. Being blocked from completing your intended interaction online is tremendously frustrating. You know when the wifi drops out when you were in the middle of a transaction, or there’s a glitch in the system right before you hit send? Usually happens at moments of crisis, too, or when you’ve just spent time entering a stack of data. What if the internet felt that way to you all the time? That’s what a person with disabilities goes through trying to get around the web. Let’s not do that to people.
Online environments ought to be accessible by default, and if you’re a business owner, that’s up to you to put in place. Whether you’re a corporation that started in a garage and now rules the planet, or you run a personal digital storefront as a home-baked pie vendor, your online store should be accessible to everyone. So let’s make that happen. Your customers deserve it.
How can I check if my Shopify store is accessible to users with disabilities?
There are a few ways to check if your Shopify store is accessible to users with disabilities. One way is to use a web accessibility testing tool. There are a number of free and paid tools available.
Another way to check your store’s accessibility is to ask someone with a disability to test it. This can be a good way to get feedback on specific areas that may be difficult to use.
Finally, you can also check the accessibility of your store manually. This involves looking at things like the text size, color contrast, and use of images.
Are there any Shopify apps or plugins for enhancing accessibility?
Yes, there are a number of Shopify apps and plugins that can help you enhance the accessibility of your store. These apps can help you with things like adding alt text to images, providing keyboard navigation, and making your store compatible with screen readers. You’ll also see some of the available options in the table in the article above.
Some of the popular accessibility apps and plugins for Shopify include:
- AccessiBe: This app helps you make your store accessible to people with disabilities. It provides a number of features, including alt text for images, keyboard navigation, and screen reader compatibility.
- Equalize: This app helps you make your store accessible to people with color blindness and dyslexia. It provides a number of features, such as high-contrast colors and text resizing.
- WCAG Compliance: This app helps you make your store compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). It provides a number of features, such as a checklist of accessibility best practices.
What are the legal requirements for accessibility in e-commerce?
The legal requirements for accessibility in e-commerce vary from country to country. However, many countries have laws that require websites to be accessible to people with disabilities.
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires websites that are operated by public accommodations to be accessible to people with disabilities. The ADA also requires websites that are operated by commercial facilities to be accessible if they are used to provide goods or services to the public.
In the European Union, the Web Accessibility Directive (WAD) requires websites that are operated by public authorities and businesses to be accessible to people with disabilities.
It is important to note that the legal requirements for accessibility are constantly evolving. It is always best to consult with an attorney to ensure that your website is compliant with the latest laws.
How can I make my Shopify store accessible to users with visual impairments?
Here are a few overall tips:
- Use clear and concise text.
- Use high-contrast colors.
- Provide alternative text for all images.
- Use keyboard navigation.
- Test your store with screen readers.
Some specific things you can do to make your store more accessible to users with visual impairments:
- Use a large font size.
- Use high-contrast colors for text and background elements.
- Avoid using images as the only way to convey information.
- Provide alternative text for all images, including their size, color, and location.
- Use clear and concise text that is easy to read.
- Avoid using jargon or technical terms that people may not understand.
- Use keyboard navigation to allow people to navigate your store without using a mouse.
- Test your store with screen readers to make sure that it is accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
By following these tips, you can make your Shopify store more accessible to users with visual impairments and improve the overall user experience for everyone.