first installment of a two-part series, the importance of website accessibility and the formulation of regulation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it relates to e-commerce are discussed. In part two, the discussion extends to options for improving website accessibility without compromising the essence of e-commerce design — the customer experience. E-commerce used to be a simple proposition: an extension of brick-and-mortar stores online that offered internet adventurers the opportunity to buy goods and services from the comfort of their computer screen. As the popularity of e-commerce has grown, at some stage, we started discussing the design of e-commerce websites as customer experiences (UX and DX) — the more rich and immersive, the better. A whole branch of the design ecosystem has grown up pushing “digital possibility” to create customer experiences that capture consumers’ attention, moving them efficiently toward the checkout. And the rest is, as they say, history. Well, not quite. In defining the customer (and the customer experience), the e-commerce industry has inadvertently taken a narrow view of who its customers are. Specifically, e-commerce builds often neglect the principal of inclusivity. According to the
U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in five U.S. citizens has some form of disability, which is a significant unaddressed slice of the population. Rather, the tendency is to create websites with an ideal user in mind — someone with all senses and physical abilities in working order.
Regulatory authorities, of course, take an entirely different view, enshrining inclusivity in the law. But when it comes to the fast-changing digital landscape, the law makers are lagging behind. What we have is a situation where website accessibility is heavily interpreted under the provisions of Title III of the ADA by both the courts and the Department of Justice (DOJ), but with varying conclusions.
This article originally ran in Internet Retailer on March 13th, 2017. To learn more about ADA accessibility, read the full article here.