Unlocking the Power of Website Accessibility: A Guide for Ecommerce Merchants

Emma Gleaden, Marketing Manager
27th March 2024

The World Health Organization estimates that there are around 135 million people living with a disability in Europe. So when it comes to website accessibility, it’s easy to understand why The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is committed to ensuring that all sites providing ecommerce products and services within Europe are accessible and inclusive for people with a variety of disabilities. It aims to ensure that these products and services are accessible by design, not just as an afterthought. This means that the digital barriers that have long hindered people with disabilities are set to crumble.

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) 2025

The EAA came into effect in April 2019, and every member state had to pass the necessary implementation laws by June 28, 2022. The implementation of each country’s laws will have to be ensured by June 2025. This means that if your business is currently operating anywhere within Europe, providing you have more than 10 employees, you will need to comply with a new set of criteria that ensures your ecommerce site is accessible for people with disabilities.

This is not just another regulation, but rather a mandate for inclusivity and a call to action, originating from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Ensuring your site complies with new accessibility laws is not just a legal obligation, but a moral imperative.

What disabilities are the EEA tackling in terms of ecommerce accessibility?

Around 80% of accessibility concerns in this realm of ecommerce revolve around blindness, which also includes low vision and colour blindness. However, the European Parliament's definition, aligned with the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is broader: "Persons with disabilities encompass those with enduring physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments, which, when faced with various barriers, may hinder their full and equitable participation in society."

This definition encompasses individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, those on the autistic spectrum, individuals with dyslexia, as well as those with physical or motor disabilities.

Bershka are a phenomenal example of a brand that is doing all the right things when it comes to making their ecommerce site accessible for all. They have implemented an easy to toggle on their site which allows the user to select their own accessibility requirements. They also have settings for people with ADHD, which features a scrollable panel, allowing for better focus on smaller segments of the site at a time. There’s another setting for people with Epilepsy, which automatically turns down the contrast and stops any moving or flashing imagery on the site.

ADHD accessibility enabled on bershka.com site.

What are the benefits for ecommerce merchants of considering accessibility ahead of 2025?

Website accessibility is about creating digital spaces that everyone can use, regardless of disabilities. This includes but isn't limited to visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. The goal is to ensure equal access to information and functionality for all users.

There are also significant advantages for ecommerce merchants themselves, and we’re certainly encouraging our own clients to go above and beyond just basic compliance when it comes to passing the EEA’s criteria. In the UK alone, there are an estimated 16 million people living with a disability - so by making your website accessible to all, you’re opening up your brand to a broader segment of people, and you’re much more likely to encourage brand loyalty and trust, even from customers who may not need to use the accessibility controls themselves.

Accessibility tools could be particularly groundbreaking for sectors such as luxury homeware and jewellery, where a larger portion of your audience may be elderly and would therefore benefit from your site having controls to help those who may be visually impaired or hard of hearing.

Risks of Non-Compliance

Failure to comply with accessibility laws can result in legal consequences, financial penalties, and damage to your brand reputation. Moreover, inaccessible websites limit your potential customer base and harm user experience. Compliance isn't just about avoiding penalties—it's about inclusivity and expanding your reach.

Taking Action

Navigating accessibility laws can be daunting, but it's essential for your business's success. If you're unsure about your website's accessibility, it's time to act. Contact us to ensure your website complies with the latest regulations.

As a first step, we recommend conducting an accessibility audit to identify areas for improvement. We are currently offering complimentary accessibility audits and recommendations in collaboration with our partner, accessiBe. If you’d like to learn more and book in a non-obligatory chat about your accessibility requirements, get in touch.

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