Beyoncé’s in trouble.
When a legally blind fan who requires screen-reading software to read websites from her computer went to Beyonce.com, she couldn’t learn about her tour dates, buy tickets or purchase merchandise. The website didn’t have alternative text for graphics, drop-down menus were inaccessible and links couldn’t be navigated without a mouse, among other violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This fan’s experience of Beyoncé’s brand was exclusionary and discriminatory. Being able to access websites, which are considered places of public accommodation, as well as those without impairment is a human right protected by the ADA.
The ADA has been policing the physical world for 30 years, but more recently has been coming down harder on businesses in the digital world. Lawsuits against noncompliant websites increased by 12% last year. In 2019, even Beyoncé got sued.
Retail businesses are targeted more than any other industry, accounting for roughly 60% of all ADA lawsuits filed in federal court. As more and more people are shopping online, not allowing access to your store is the equivalent of not having ramp access for wheelchairs or a handicap bathroom. It’s not just bad form anymore. It’s illegal.
It’s also bad for business, as ADA compliant websites improve SEO, site traffic, brand awareness, and revenue. In fact, a study conducted in 2019 by Nucleus Research found that e-commerce retailers in the U.S. are losing an estimated $6.9 billion annually to their competitors with more accessible websites. $6.9 billion!
That’s why it’s important to follow the standards for compliance that are set by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). A basic checklist includes the following:
- Captions. Include them on all video or audio content.
- Contrast ratio. The contrast between text and background is at least 4.5-1.
- Text Size. Text is still legible when enlarged by 200%.
- Images. Use text wherever possible rather than relying on images alone.
- Multiple Access. Pages on the site can be accessed in various ways.
- Keyboard. It is visible and clear.
- Consistency. Menus and buttons should be the same, regardless of the user’s location on the site.
- Errors. When a user inputs something incorrectly, they should be given suggestions on alternate paths.
- Misleading text. Underlined text without a link should be removed.
This is a general list, but ADA compliance can get complicated because there are three levels: A, AA and AAA. Which level your business needs is determined by your particular business and should not be entered into lightly. Or alone.
ADA compliance is something we take seriously for all of our clients. It’s something our designers and developers are trained to consider throughout their creative process. It is a discipline we exercise with tools offered by partners such as Usablenet to deliver inclusive experiences for all.
In other words, if Beyoncé was one of our clients, she wouldn’t be in this mess.