Why is the Retail Industry Being Sued for Web Accessibility?

February 28, 2020 BY SOFIA ENAMORADO
Updated: April 20, 2021

In 2019, there were over 2000 web accessibility lawsuits filed in the United States. Almost all industries were targeted including banking, foodservice, and healthcare. Yet, the hardest hit was the retail industry encompassing 60% of all web and app ADA lawsuits.

Why is retail such a hot target?

What Makes the Retail Industry a Target?

Cartoon family holding shopping bags

Why is it that 60% of all ADA web and app lawsuits last year were retail-based? Simply put, retail companies are being sued multiple times. To understand why this is possible, we have to look at the six main differences of the retail industry.

  1. It’s easy to tell if a website or app is accessible or not:
    Most retail websites have the same accessibility issues, which makes it easy to test and target a large number of websites at once.
  2. Existing Department of Justice settlements clearly state that retail websites are subject to the ADA and should follow WCAG.
  3. Complex websites can be difficult make accessible:
    Many retail websites have complex JavaScript functionality that is constantly changing where accessibility issues can easily arise without realizing it.
  4. Big retail companies have multiple websites and apps:
    Most settlements are only for the one individual who sued you. This means that someone else can sue you for the same issue or another one of your websites or apps.
  5. Nexus:
    meaning if a website is connected to a physical location, it’s easy to make a case for the ADA.
  6. Money:
    big retailers can afford to settle quickly, especially because websites and apps are a fundamental part their businesses and need them be operating.

What are the Typical Issues Reported?

The most popular standard for web accessibility is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG.

Why WCAG 2.0 AA and Note WCAG 2.1 AA?

While WCAG 2.1 AA is the most recent rendition of guidelines, 2.1 is rarely referenced in lawsuits.

Most retail lawsuits list WCAG 2.0 AA because it’s a lot easier to find issues related to WCAG 2.0 AA over WCAG 2.1 AA. With WCAG 2.1, it requires more effort and time to test.

Law firms want to keep it as easy and as simple as possible.

Typically, these lawsuits will claim the website or app fails to:

  • Provide text alternative for non-text content (WCAG 1.1.1 – Non-Text Content)
  • Cartoon people checking out

  • Provide the wrong values when a user selects a quantity or size when trying to make a purchase (WCAG 1.3.1 – Info and Relationships)
  • Provide proper input purposes for location and zip code inputs (WCAG 1.3.5 – Indentify Input Purpose
  • Make images with text that communication promos or deals accessible for VoiceOver users (WCAG 1.4.5 – Images of Text)
  • Provide a correct focus order (WCAG 2.4.3 – Focus Order)
  • Provide proper labels for products and buttons (WCAG 2.5.3 – Label in Name)
  • Provide a mechanism for users to order a product for in-store pickup (WCAG 3.3.2 – Labels or Instructions, elements in the app should be labeled and give instructions)
  • Notify VoiceOver users that a pop-up is being displayed or give buttons proper labels(WCAG 4.1.2 – Name, Role, Value, all elements should be built for accessibility)
  • Provice information on the colour of a product for VoiceOver users (WCAG 4.1.3 – Status Messages)

What Can Retail Companies Start Doing Today?

Cartoon people browsing a clothing rack

The most valuable step a retail organization can begin working on today is making accessibility a priority. It has to begin internally.

Next, sit down with key stakeholders and write an accessibility statement.

Ask yourself:

  • What are you going to do and by when?
  • Who is going to be involved?

Next, being training with the key groups who will be building accessibility into your product (often your developers). Get them familiarized with WCAG and what is required. And if you work with an agency, talk to them about adhering to WCAG guidelines.

Lastly, get users involved in testing.

In the webinar, How to Avoid an ECommerce Web Accessibility Lawsuit, Jason Taylor, Chief Innovation Strategist at UsableNet, dove into why the retail industry has become a target for ADA lawsuits, and what retail companies can start doing today to avoid being targeted next.

Watch the webinar below!

This blog post is written for educational and general information purposes only and does not constitute specific legal advice. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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