In a time when inclusivity is becoming increasingly more significant in our society, it’s time that more websites and brands reflect inclusivity not just in the products that they sell, but also in the way their Shopify websites are designed and built.

For ecommerce shop owners who want to learn more about how to make their Shopify websites more inclusive and accessible to all their users, it's time to look into and learn about the concept of web accessibility. 


What is web accessibility?

We all like to think of the internet as a place where everyone can have access, but there are millions of users out there with special needs that may make accessing and interacting with your ecommerce website more challenging.

Web accessibility means the degree to which a website is accessible to users with disabilities, with the help of tools, technology, and design.

The types of disabilities that can affect a user's ability to access and navigate your website include auditory, visual, cognitive, neurological, physical conditions and others.

When your website is accessible, it means that you have taken measures to make sure that people with disabilities can perceive, navigate, interact with, and even contribute to your website. 

In this article, we look into common conditions and how they may affect your website's accessibility, and what you can do to make your site more accessible.


Common Types of Disabilities and Challenges They Pose for Users

There is a multitude of conditions that people live with that can affect how accessible your website will appear to them. Below, we highlight conditions and their challenges to give you an idea of how they limit the use of your site.

Visual Impairment: This includes individuals with a partial or total inability to see. It also includes those who suffer from colorblindness. Individuals with Visual impairment are limited in their ability to perceive content and distinguish between visual/colored elements on your site.

Auditory Impairment: These are users who have partial or a total inability to hear. These users are limited in their ability to perceive audio content on your site.

Physical Disabilities: This includes limitations in a person's physical functions, like mobility and dexterity. This can impair people's ability to navigate your site successfully.

Photosensitive Epilepsy: In this example, people who have photosensitive epilepsy suffer from seizures when triggered by exposure to flashing lights or certain visual patterns. This can result in major injuries to your users.

Learning Disorders/Cognitive Disabilities: A wide spectrum of conditions, examples of commonplace disorders include the likes of dyslexia, which often comes with difficulty in reading or decoding text efficiently.


Web Accessibility also benefits those without disabilities

It's important to note that it's not only the people with disabilities who will benefit from web accessibility. Here are examples of people and situations wherein users can benefit from web-accessible sites:

  • Older users
  • Users on mobile, smartwatches, smart TVs.
  • Users with temporary injuries.
  • Situational limitations such as crowded areas where users cannot hear audio.
  • Users with slow internet


Why Should you Make Your Shopify Website More Accessible?

Web accessibility makes your website and brand more inclusive, a concept and social movement that is close to the hearts of many consumers. Inclusivity makes people view your brand under a positive light, meaning they are more likely to bond with your brand and have positive associations with what you do.

Additionally, website accessibility helps your brand connect to a larger audience, helping you widen your potential customer base to include those with certain conditions. Making your website more accessible to users with disabilities may also put you steps ahead of your competitors who do not consider the special needs of their customers, giving you a better reputation as a more approachable and humanistic brand.

There is a strong business consideration for website accessibility. It improves user experience while extending your market reach.


5 Ways to Make your Shopify Website More Accessible

1. Include Alt Text for Images

Alt text or alternative text will be a great asset to users who are visually impaired or have slow internet. Alt text added to images conveys the image through text. It can be read out loud by a screen reader software commonly used by the visually impaired, or can be displayed as text when an image fails to load.

For your website to have a higher accessibility score, all images and non-text elements should be represented by accurate alt text that describes the contents of an image. This is so that assistive technology can be used to change the image into other forms users with special needs can process more easily, such as speech, symbols, or simpler language.


2. Make Your Video Content & Other Multi-Media Accessible

Just as you need to make considerations for visually impaired users, so should you make considerations for those with auditory impairments.

For video or audio content on your site, you can provide captions synchronized to the video. Captions are not just text that reflects the spoken word but can also describe the background music or tone of the speaker in the video or audio to provide users with a better experience.

Also use an accessible video player for your site, one that supports subtitles, captions, and audio descriptions. And also, make sure to use the right color contrast for text so that it is easily discernible and readable to users who are hard of hearing.


3. Keyboard Navigation

Visually impaired users, people who have mobility issues, or have injuries will find navigating your site with a mouse or a trackpad to be a challenge. This makes incorporating keyboard navigation into your website important.

For users with mobility issues and injuries, it’s important to make your site accessible through the use of the keyboard navigation through the Tab and Arrow keys. In an accessible website, every link, control, and feature that is accessible with a mouse should also be accessible to keyboard-only users.


4. Select Optimal Color Contrast

The use of color throughout your website should be evaluated to fit the needs of those with a common condition known as color blindness. It is estimated that approximately 8% of the population suffers from red-green color deficiency, making the need for careful color selection more necessary when you want all users to be able to distinguish between the different elements presented on a webpage.

Contrast sensitivity is also a design issue that should be kept in mind. Older users, users with glaucoma, cataracts, and other visual conditions may also suffer from low color contrast sensitivity, highlighting the need to distinguish Text from Background with better color choices.


5. Scalable Webpages/Text

Sites that are considered accessible can resize scaled up by up to 200% without loss of content or functionality.

Users with partially impaired vision and older visitors often can’t read small text sizes and zooming in is the only way for them to use your site and discern its content. In designing your site, make sure that your site can be zoomed into without compromising the site's layout, performance, and content.

Ideally, navigation elements should still be clear and present so that users can perform tasks and explore your site with little friction.


Web Accessibility Score

You can evaluate your website accessibility through online tools that provide you with an accessibility insight.

These tools are useful in helping you evaluate your online store, helping you see whether it meets accessibility standards.


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