Accessibility 101 for Retailers

Real Shoppers. Real Issues.

A department store hasn’t enabled pinch-to-zoom on their mobile site and a woman with low vision is unable to see the details of a printed skirt.

A specialty baggage website doesn’t include alt text on their product images, so a shopper who is blind doesn’t know what details are shown in the images of the laptop bag he’s interested in.

These are just a few examples of accessibility issues your customers with disabilities might encounter. And just as you would remove any physical barriers blocking access to your place of business, it’s equally important to remove digital barriers that can prevent people with access needs from using your website or mobile app.

Over the last 20 years Level Access has worked with countless retail and e-commerce organizations to ensure their websites and mobile apps are accessible for their customers.


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The ADA & You

The Law: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

First passed: 1990

Applies to: “Places of public accommodation.” In the past, this was not interpreted to mean a retailer’s website, but since the 2017 judgement against Winn-Dixie, we’ve seen a steady uptick in litigation in this space.

Requires: Retailers must provide accommodations for shoppers with disabilities.

Read more about ADA compliance and web accessibility.



What is Accessibility?

Digital accessibility refers to the ability of users with disabilities to effectively use information technology (IT) systems including websites, mobile or web-based applications, software, and hardware. Digital accessibility is generally concerned with ensuring that IT systems are designed in such a way that they interact appropriately with assistive technologies.

Assistive technologies can include:

Screen readers, Braille keypads, or screen magnification software so users who are blind or low vision can read your content.

Voice recognition software that helps those with mobility disabilities (even arthritis) navigate the web and type using only their voice.

Head pointers and switch devices that allow those with more limited movement navigate without using their hands or a traditional mouse.


Why Accessibility?

Some of our elders remember the days when a computer filled an entire room. Now, we have computers in our pockets. So many aspects of our lives are made easier by technology.

Yet, those with disabilities are often left out when hardware, software, websites, and apps are designed without a thought for their needs.

A tablet at the doctor’s office has a sign-in program that disables the pinch-to-zoom feature, making it impossible for a woman with low vision to fill out her medical history.

An online learning portal uses automatically-generated captions on their videos, leaving a deaf student at a loss for words. Literally.

A retail website does not include alt text on their product images, so a shopper who is blind cannot “see” what the images show about the laptop bag he wants to buy.

By some estimates, one in five people has a disability that affects their daily life. Having equal access to technology has a profound, enabling effect for people with disabilities.