November 17th, 2008 | 3 MIN READ

The Importance of Web Accessibility for Ecommerce

Written by Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio brings 13 years of Internet and marketing experience to the Get Elastic Blog as a contributing author. In addition, Armando is the Contributing Editor for Practical Ecommerce and Site Director for Ecommerce Developer while serving as a consultant for ecommerce, social media, recycling, agriculture and semiconductor companies in the United States, Europe and China. He has previously held positions as Marketing Communications Strategy Manager for Micron Technology and Regional Manager for the Hearst Corporation. Armando is also a retailer himself for Cowboy Toys & More, All Amercian Mercantile Co. and more. Checkout his personal site at

The following is a guest post from Armando Roggio, a web developer, a marketer, the Contributing Editor of Practical eCommerce and a serial entrepreneur with many micro-businesses.

The leading web standards body, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recently announced new content accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0) to help make the Internet easier for blind, deaf or otherwise disabled web-surfers to access and use. Such visitors require aids such as screen readers to follow content.

Not only is adhering to web accessibility standards ethically and morally the right thing to do, there are 2 other pragmatic reasons to abide by WCAG 2.0:

Two Pragmatic Reasons to Design for Accessibility

1. Get More (Loyal) Customers.

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, there are at least 1.5 million Americans with some vision loss who use the Internet. Ecommerce merchants that make their websites easy to access, use, and shop will find a significant and loyal customer base. Add to this group the deaf/hard-of-hearing community and having an accessible online store can add up to a lot of business.

2. Avoid Legal Challenges

In September, multi-channel retailer Target was ordered to pay $6 million to settle a legal challenge from the National Federation of the Blind. The suit marked a few scary new trends in Internet law—websites as public places and the application of disabilities acts to the Internet. None of this would have been necessary if Target had proactively coded their site for accessibility.

Three Quick Accessibility Tips

1. Add a "Content" link at the top of the page.

When a screen reader translates your page for a visually impaired visitor, it is helpful if the first thing it sees is navigation, not an ALT attribute (a piece of HTML code that describes your image using keywords) for your logo. On the sites I design, I include a brief bit of navigation that points a disabled visitor to the site's content or important category pages. I don't necessary want that navigation to interrupt the page design, so I use CSS to position it off screen. Sighted visitors never see it, but it's the first thing screen readers find.

2. Remove time limits.

It can be a lot harder for a disable visitor to complete a task like filling out a form. Too many websites have applications that "time out" and make it really hard for disabled users. Removing time limits on shopping carts, for example, is a big help.

3. Offer extended audio descriptions with video content.

If you are using video on your site, be sure to include an alternate version of the video with audio descriptions. There are several ways to achieve the effect technically and it will include deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors.

Check out Practical Ecommerce for more tips on web accessibility.

Share on


Thanks for signing up!

You'll receive a welcome email shortly.

By submitting this you agree with our privacy policy.