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The accessibility challenge in the internet age

Brian Wolfe

Millions of people have disabilities that affect their day-to-day lives. A focus on accessibility in our society is paramount so that everyone can use the same services and access the same places. This is one of several reasons the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is in place – to remove barriers, both digital and physical.

While accessibility in the physical world has finally gathered needed attention, today’s internet age has revealed challenges in web accessibility that have gone unnoticed. Businesses are taking note, as a failure to meet the needs of their online shoppers can be costly. With the number of web accessibility lawsuits rising, companies need a plan to accommodate all of their shoppers.

The issues they face may include a lack of captions in videos for the hearing impaired or contrast that is too low on online pages and the inability to resize text for those with impaired vision. Also, assistive technology may be required to use a mouse and keyboard for those with limited dexterity. Some sites demand timed responses and an individual with an intellectual or visual disability will find difficulty in responding, often with no alternative solution. And the list goes on.

However, the ADA does not directly address online accessibility compliance, so the legal action companies can face are determined case by case. Fortunately, the effort to implement greater web and e-commerce accessibility is in itself a solution to a legal challenge. If a claim is raised on a particular issue on the website, simply showing some measure of due diligence and that there is a plan currently in place to solve that challenge helps avoid fines and lower the risk of a lawsuit.

The best practice for improving e-commerce accessibility is to hire a good ADA auditor to do a thorough assessment of the company’s online platform. The emphasis should be on experience, as a good auditor is one with many references and a proven track record. With continually changing guidelines, retailers must choose an expert who is up to date and has a strong understanding of industry standards.

Next, work with the auditor to ensure the right features are implemented. Less may be more in this case, as it is possible to add too many functions as a result of an aggressive audit. Retailers need to establish a baseline by determining what matters most, rather than planning for every possible scenario, which may result in higher costs without making a noticeable difference for customers.

With a long history of supporting retailers with web accessibility needs, Capgemini’s experts have the know-how to find the right balance in our recommendations and implementations. We can identify your problem areas to address what matters, improve accessibility across your online platform, and help you deliver the improved customer experience demanded by all of your consumers.

Everyone must have the same access to the internet and relative ease of use, and accessibility challenges must be solved before they escalate. Companies that understand this will further their business and do some good for society.

Brian Wolfe is a VP of Commerce at Capgemini who specializes in e-commerce and digital customer experience. He helps clients deliver the best possible experience to consumers for business growth. Contact Brian at