Are Shopify Websites ADA Compliant?
If you have an e-commerce site, your goal is probably to sell something to make a profit. To be able to buy your goods or services, your customers must be able to access and navigate your site. However, it is not so simple for the estimated 1 in 5 Americans who live with disabilities. To combat accessibility challenges, the U.S. passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibiting discrimination by requiring businesses make reasonable accommodations to support people with disabilities. What does that mean for your e-commerce site? Is Shopify ADA compliant? And if not, what does that mean?
The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability. If your website is not accessible to people with disabilities, it could be seen as discrimination, and therefore not compliant with the law. Under it, all federal, state, and local government websites are required to meet accessibility standards, but the section that addresses public businesses does not specifically address websites. Legal precedence has provided more guidance than the legislation itself, but the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has left the job of creating mandatory guidelines up to Congress, which has yet to act. Guidance from the DOJ’s interpretation of the law indicates that websites for private employers with 15 or more employees, local or state government agencies, and businesses that exist to benefit the public, including education, transportation, and telecommunication are required to comply with the ADA.
Is Shopify ADA compliant?
Shopify is cloud-based e-commerce platform used by over a million businesses in 175 countries. Given its popularity, many assume that Shopify is ADA compliant. However, Shopify is not ADA compliant by design. When selling its own products, Shopify’s website accessibility is incorporated. Shopify does offer some accessibility templates and recommends a list of accessibility partners, but it does not check for ADA compliance or adherence to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This leaves many e-commerce sites hosted by Shopify with accessibility challenges, such as images and visuals without text descriptions, contrast that cannot be easily seen by visually impaired users, and a lack of keyboard navigation, making it difficult for blind people to use without a screen reader. Ultimately, making your Shopify site ADA compliant is your responsibility.
Ensuring Your Shopify ADA Compliance
Even though Shopify is not ADA compliant, as soon as you start using it, there are some key steps you can take to make sure your site is accessible to people with disabilities.
- Implement an accessibility policy: Create a policy focusing on your accessibility goals and share it with your team. This will allow you to get feedback, adjust, and ensure you can all carry out the policy together.
- Audit your site: Before fixing accessibility problems, you must identify them first. Be sure to have people with disabilities test your site and offer feedback so you can know if you are meeting their needs.
- Follow WCAG: World Wide Web’s Consortium Website Accessibility Initiative (W3C WAI) created the WCAG to offer guidance on how to make websites user-friendly for those with disabilities. While the ADA does not give specific requirements, courts have used WCAG to determine if a website is compliant. You can help make sure your e-commerce site through Shopify is ADA compliant by following the WCAG’s four principles:
- Perceivable – You can help make your website perceivable by providing text for images and other non-text content and including captions with your videos and other multimedia.
- Operable – If your content automatically scrolls across the screen, make sure you give visitors enough time to read it before it changes. Avoid flashing lights or other effects that could cause seizures. Enabling navigation using a keyboard will also help ensure your site on Shopify is ADA compliant.
- Understandable – Use colors, contrasts, fonts, spacing, and language that make your content easy to read and understand.
- Robust – Make sure your content can be accessed using assistive devices.
- Utilize accessibility tools: Although they are not built in, the platform does suggest some plugins to make sure your Shopify site is ADA compliant, including Accessibly, Accessibility Enabler, Accessibility Assistant, Accessibility Toolkit, and Friendly Accessibility Tools. These applications may help, but they are not fool-proof, and you will likely still have to manually test and update some areas of your site.
If you are wondering if your e-commerce site hosted on Shopify is ADA compliant, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Compliance not only helps you avoid lawsuits and potential damage to your reputation, but it also means more people are able to purchase and benefit from your goods and services. Isn’t that why you started selling them in the first place? If you need help creating impactful, accessible web design, we are here. Please contact Paradigm today.