Our 2023 Guide to (Shopify) ADA Compliance
Do you run a Shopify store? Or any online store? If so, you want to look at your ADA compliance and take some simple first-steps to get in compliance with the law.
ADA is the acronym for the Americans with Disabilities Act. It provides the groundwork to allow EVERYONE to access your physical locations as well as those online.
You remember. This was the civil rights legislation (it became law in 1990) that had public and private buildings adding ramps to help the disabled to get to a front door, made sure that the disabled were not discriminated against in the hiring process, and that “reasonable accommodation” would be provided to a qualified applicant, regardless of their disability.
In the early 2000s, the U.S. Department of Justice updated their guidance to state that ADA applies to websitesandphysical properties.
Why should you care?
You should want to provide access to everyone that possibly wants to purchase from your store, which should be the best reason overall. The other reason? Well, if you are not in ADA compliance you can be sued by anyone that has a disability and was prevented from accessing your content.
"Since 2013, law firm Seyfarth Shaw has tracked the number of lawsuits filed under the ADA each year. Their data shows that more than 11,400 people filed an ADA Title III lawsuit in 2021—a 4 percent increase from 2020 and a 320 percent increase since 2013."
What is the best first step?
Reading this article is a great first step, as you are starting to look into ADA compliance!.The next thing you should do is add a new page to your store –Accessibility Statement–and link to it in your footer. The Accessibility Statement shows people how to get in touch with you if they find issues with your ADA compliance, instead of a lawsuit. Just adding this statement does not stop lawsuits, but may help your customers find a way to report issues easier.
The World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) provides some great tips on making your own accessibility statement here: https://www.w3.org/WAI/planning/statements/.
Example Accessibility Statement:
Copy the code below and paste it into your store editor (make sure to toggle the code view (< >) to paste the code correctly).
<h1>Website and Technology Accessibility Statement:</h1>
<p>If you have difficulty using or accessing any element of this website or on any [WEBSITENAME] mobile app or tool, please feel free to call us at [PHONE] or email us at [EMAIL] and we will work with you to provide the information, item, or transaction you seek through a communication method that is accessible for you consistent with applicable law (for example, through telephone support).</p>
<h2>Goal of Being Better for All</h2> <p>[WEBSITENAME] desires to provide a positive customer experience to all our customers, and we aim to promote accessibility and inclusion. Our goal is to permit our customers to successfully gather information and transact business through our website.</p> <p>Whether you are using assistive technologies like a screen reader, a magnifier, voice recognition software, or captions for videos, our goal is to make your use of [WEBSITENAME] website a successful and enjoyable experience.</p> <h2>Actions</h2> <p>We are taking a variety of steps and devoting resources to further enhance the accessibility of our website.</p> <h2>Ongoing Effort</h2> <p>Although we are proud of the efforts that we have completed and that are in-progress, we at [WEBSITENAME] view accessibility as an ongoing effort.</p> <h2>Feedback</h2> <p>Please contact us if you have any feedback or suggestions as to how we could improve the accessibility of this website.</p>
Wait, I bought a Shopify Theme from Shopify, isn’t it ADA Compliant?!?
In a perfect world, everything would be 100% ADA compliant out of the box-–unfortunately, the greatest reason to use Shopify, the customization capabilities, makes ADA compliance partly your own responsibility. Themes are typically about 60-70% ADA compliant out of the box, but then you add your content and the percentage typically goes down.
How can I keep my site ADA Compliant?
After taking the first step (Accessibility Statement) you need to run an audit on your Shopify store. There are plenty of sites online that give you that ability, but the results may end up being very technical. We like using the WAVE Accessibility testing system, but it is very technical and gives you details on EVERY issue on your website (https://wave.webaim.org/).
Another option is to have a third-party manage your ADA audit. Most third-party ADA auditors will test your store using testers with specific disabilities to allow them to gain a greater understanding of issues a person may experience. An audit may take a few weeks to accomplish and costs anywhere from $10,000 on up to do a full audit.
WAIT, did you really just say $10,000! Yes, we did. Running a true ADA audit requires a lot of experience and knowhow to properly find issues in your store, as well as report back on how to fix your site. These caliber of firms will continue auditing for a year or more. (Remember, a typically ADA lawsuit settles for $7,000+ each time, and after the first time you are typically required to have a full ADA audit).
What about those toolbars that use AI and other things to get us ADA compliant?
We all wish there was a magic wand we could wave over our stores to make them ADA compliant (see what we did there, WAVE, the testing tool–we will just step off stage now). The ADA toolbars you see advertised do better than nothing, but not much better. Most law firms that handle ADA lawsuits highly recommend against using them because they have a lot of flaws that law firms are using to bring cases against you. That is right, they are using the toolbars against the independent stores.
Small first steps to take
- Make sure your website images have ALTernative text. No toolbar, audit agency, or AI system can just set these up (yet), you will have to manually add them. And, the more descriptive the better–not just IMAGE 1, IMAGE 2, etc. “Yellow jacket for women” is a much better approach.
- On videos, make sure you have Closed Captioning setup and enabled so everyone can enjoy your video content.
- Make sure your text is actually readable. For example, do not put black text over dark gray backgrounds, or use small text. You can check to see if your text is readable by using the Contrast Checker on WEBAIM: https://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/
Longer term and continuous goals
Maintaining ADA compliance is a continuous project, and should be handled like a marathon, not a sprint. Our small first steps are a great project kickoff for a longer-term need to maintain ADA compliance.
One of the best options we have seen our clients work with is a third-party auditing service. These companies work as your QA team for ADA compliance. Going through your site and notating issues that may cause issues with people with disabilities.
Some companies we have had a positive experience with for an audit:
- Allyant (formerly Accessible360)
- Userway Auditing Service (not their widget)
Typically, you get access to a team of ADA specialists and their internal logging system. Every update and task you do towards ADA compliance has a paper trail -–separate from your own internal tools. When in legal discovery for a potential lawsuit, this layer of reporting makes it a lot harder to prove you were not working with the ADA guidelines.
As a nice extra for ADA compliance, your site or store will get a slight SEO boost. ADA requires you to have ALT tags for all your images, but so does a lot of technical SEO. ADA likes headings and heading tags in specific order, so does technical SEO. You can hit both SEO and ADA in one round of development–a win-win!
If you are researching ADA compliance on your Shopify store, give our team a call and we can walk through the steps and guide your team through to compliance.SHRM Study Source