My name is Kris Rivenburgh. I’m an attorney and the author of The ADA Book. I’m also the founder of Accessible.org.
So that I can efficiently provide a transcript and closed captions, I will read from the transcript.
So many Shopify store owners have been the recipients of litigation and I am frequently asked what they can do to make their website accessible and ADA compliant.
Before I respond to store owners, I looked at what Shopify had to say on the matter. Per the Shopify Help Center, under Accessibility for Themes, Shopify writes:
“When you customize your theme, it’s a good idea to make design and content choices that help to keep your online store accessible.”
On this page, Shopify provides several tips for accessibility derived from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG. But what I didn’t see was a definitive stance from Shopify.
I can partly understand why Shopify hasn’t fully embraced accessibility and potentially ADA compliance and that’s because Shopify knows that it cannot control the customizations that customers can make to their website themes. Nor would it want to. But there is more that Shopify can do to ensure that their customers start with a better base of accessibility out of the box.
Also, under the Tip section of the Help Center page, it says:
“If you’re a developer, then you can further optimize your theme for accessibility using Shopify tools and best practices.”
And that’s followed by a page with some helpful guidance for developers, which is a good thing. This is headed in the right direction, but there is more work to be done.
When we look at the app store, there are multiple apps such as Accessibility Enabler, Accessibly, and others.
First, these apps will not make your website conformant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Further, there is nothing you can buy – no software, no application, no widget – that can turn an inaccessible website into an accessible one.
Although ADA compliance in terms of what it means for the digital world is uncertain, what is certain is that these various widgets, toolbars, and/or overlays are wholly insufficient in many ways and do not make your website accessible. Two significant legal problems with these automated “solutions” include:
- Failure to provide meaningful access, which is the legal standard under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and
- Creation of a separate and unequal experience
I highly recommend that any accessibility apps are removed from the app store as they are only distractions and deceive website owners into a false sense of accessibility and compliance with the law.
Second, to Shopify, I’d love to work with you on accessibility, certifying themes for out-of-the-box accessibility, and reducing legal risk for your customers.
Your customers have been and currently are ongoing targets for litigation and I can help reduce that risk.
Third, to Shopify store owners, there is only one approach to accessibility and that is through a manual audit of your website and then remediation by a developer (and possibly a designer) who is experienced in and understands accessibility. Also, it is crucial that your content editor/manager knows how to produce accessible content and is making uploads and changes with accessibility in mind.
Through a genuine and competently performed WCAG 2.1 AA audit and subsequent remediation of all issues, you can finally feel a sense of relief that your store is accessible to people with disabilities and it is highly unlikely that you will be targeted by a plaintiffs’ law firm.
Practically, it is always advantageous to have 0 WAVE errors. WAVE by WebAIM is the most popular automated scan tool and is frequently used by plaintiffs’ lawyers as a source for their claims. However, it is important to keep in mind that WAVE is not conclusive of accessibility. Rather, WAVE only flags about 25% of WCAG 2.1 AA success criteria for review.
Other automated scans may scan slightly more or less issues, but the important takeaway is that scans are very helpful, but by no means conclusive.
If you would like help with an audit or remediation, you can find out more about accessibility services at Accessible.org.
Furthermore, I highly recommend you read The ADA Book. The ADA Book is quick and to the point and helps everyone understand the legal landscape and the different elements in play when making a website or other asset accessible.