The state of accessibility in e-commerce

  • The market is huge (~35 million people with web impacting disabilities in the US, ~3/4 million in Canada).
  • It’s the right thing to do.
  • In many instances there are financial repercussions for not making a website accessible.
  • The tools and knowledge to make a website accessible are out there.
The great wall of China is not accessible.
Mother has difficulties getting a stroller up the stairs.
Person invents a ramp on an inaccessible staircase.
An award-winning ramp
Who benefits from web accessibility?

But what about web accessibility, who benefits from that? Spoiler alert — it’s also everyone.

With the advent of smartphones we are all subject to a degree of new challenges when trying to navigate websites. Here I’m showing how the glare on the screen can cut down on anyone’s ability to view content:

Glare makes it hard for us to read content on our smart phones.
Disabled population (US, 2016) From:
How many people are affected? A significant number. ~35 million people. From:
  • ~half a million Canadians have low vision or vision loss. (Like the whole population of Newfoundland and Labrador).
  • Canadians who identify themselves as culturally Deaf comprise more than 350,000 people across Canada. (Canadian Association of the Deaf, 2007)
Internet Users in the World (~3.4 billion people in 2016)
Physical modes of content were replaced by electronic modes of content
E-Commerce and web accessibility timeline
Web accessibility initiatives from the late 80s until today
Prominent US lawsuits pertaining to web accessibility in retail
Sorry, we’re closed
35 million people
  1. It can work with a mouse pointing device and a monitor, the way many of us probably use it.
  2. It can work with just a keyboard and a monitor. Consider someone who has a tremor and cannot focus their mouse pointer and needs to use a keyboard instead. Or, a sighted person who may be paralyzed, and use a puff and suck device that mimics the function of a tab key.
  3. Or, people can use their keyboard in conjunction with a screen reader.
The perfect bike (or is it?)
An example of eye-tracking research
Screen reader tracking example

Common accessibility issues with online retail stores

  1. Usability basics are not considered for keyboard/screen reader users
A screenshot of a form from a long-time e-commerce giant
Product tile that doesn’t work well for keyboard users
Product listing page grid example
Information not read on tab stop is faded out in this graphic for illustration purposes
Compare what the product price is compared to what a screen reader says.
  • Strikethrough is not read by a screen reader — the UX designer must employ different ways to convey price change differences. E.g. hidden text like “was $160.00, is $99.98”
  • Missing decimal places mean a completely different number is read (see examples 1 and 2 above)
  • Example 3 shows the right way to mark up a price — with a decimal point.
  • All of these issues are easily solved, but nobody finds them because nobody tests with a screen reader.
Locked out of the amusement park
The sky is the limit! (Thank you!)



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Alison Walden

Alison Walden

CPWA Certified Accessibility professional, front end development, technology leadership, user experience, random haiku poems.