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Have an online store? In the era of COVID-19, you cannot skimp on web accessibility

Apr 25, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered major disruptions for businesses and specifically e-commerce brands. While much of the media focus has been on forced closures of retail locations, there were also plenty of online stores that have been adversely affected by these changes.

With supply chain stoppages and adjusting to remote teams, even e-commerce brands are enduring a period of substantial changes. Visual Capitalist data reveals that while many food brands are undergoing sales boosts of over 300 percent, many “non-essential” categories — mainly luggage, cameras and swimwear — have faced acute drops. Unluckily, the transition to online purchasing is not just harming select businesses. It is also pushing many individuals with disabilities to be left behind because of a lack of web availability.

What COVID-19 means for web accessibility?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one in four adults in the United States endure some kind of disability. That’s about 61 million people. These numbers take in people with movement limitations, hearing and vision incapacities, as well as cognitive function issues. All of these disabilities can affect someone’s ability to use the internet.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act warrants that accommodations are created to fulfill access needs at physical retail locations, e-commerce brands have lagged behind in ensuring similar accessibility supplies are made for their stores.

When physical retail is unavailable, this can quickly become problematic. Quartz reports that year over year retail foot traffic dropped 97.6 percent in March, in large part because of retailers closing to slow the spread. For many, especially those with compromised immune systems or other underlying health conditions, buying online is now the only viable shopping option.

Where online stores are falling short with web accessibility?

While e-commerce could seem more suitable for individuals with incapacities, most websites fail to tackle even basic access needs to ensure users can acquire information or make a purchase. Web accessibility automation platform accessible recently assessed 10,000,000 websites to see if they met WCAG accessibility criteria. 98 percent had nonconforming menus. 89 percent had popups that hampered basic access requirements. The majority of sites also had accessibility issues with forms, icons, buttons and images.

Even an apparently slight issue could hinder an individual’s ability to complete a purchase. During the present pandemic, such difficulties could keep people from being able to buy key items they need when it is too dangerous for them to leave the house. In some cases, this could cause individuals in high-risk groups to run out of food or medication.

Potential outcome from not making your e-commerce store accessible

With such terrible consequences related to COVID-19, it is obvious that we as e-commerce retailers have a responsibility to make sure that everyone can complete the purchases they want or need at this time. Failure to improve website accessibility leaves an already-vulnerable group in an even more problematic situation.

If you don’t act, this could also bring about dire significances for your e-commerce brand. The 2019 Click-Away Pound Study found that 69 percent of people with disabilities will leave a site that poses access obstacles — resulting in yearly losses of £17.1 billion in the UK alone.

Make accessibility a priority now

We cannot predict the lifetime of COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, its influence will probably spread after the virus stops being a major threat, changing our behaviors and purchasing habits for quite some time.

That’s why online stores should start prioritizing web accessibility at the moment. This will allow you to better serve clients with access needs during the current crisis and when things ultimately get back to normal.

By: Our Copywriting Team

Digiwits • Digital, Creative & Copywriting Agency