Retailers: Equitable Access For People With Disabilities Must Be Permanent

Written by: Ryan Wieland
Use of this material granted by Michele Landis, Co-Founder of Accessible360

Retailers: Equitable Access For People With Disabilities Must Be Permanent

None of us are immune to the news: COVID-19 is forcing retailers to close their physical retail locations nationwide. Due to these closures, most have shifted to a “digital only” approach to keep business operating as best as possible during these difficult times.

For retailers who were previously e-commerce only, this hasn’t caused much of a hiccup thankfully. For others, this is a major change based on many conversations I have had with small to large retailers over the past week. They have seen web traffic jump two to five times or more seemingly overnight!

Certainly, this has presented logistical challenges and forced companies to think about “online-only” approaches as they get creative to keep their doors open during this pandemic. However, there are other “challenges” this is creating – not only for companies, but their consumers.

Sadly, for many retailers, it is also forcing them to think about digital accessibility, WCAG testing, and ADA Compliance for the first time. This is sad not only because it’s tough for most organizations across the country (if not the globe) right now; but also because it should not take a pandemic of epic proportions, such as COVID-19, for retailers to “care” about providing equitable access for people with disabilities. I certainly wouldn’t think so – and not just because many of my colleagues and friends here at A360 live with a disability everyday – but it is a reality, and all companies need to do the same things we do now.

Think about the human side of this for just a second. If you have seen your web traffic double/triple /quadruple overnight, how many more consumers do you have attempting to buy your products that may have a disability? They have no choice but to use a digital product that might not work for them. According to the CDC, roughly 25% of that increase in traffic could be people with disabilities (PWD). That is a large number of consumers, and these individuals who are more susceptible to the damaging effects of COVID-19 than the rest of the population. These PWD are even more dependent on the Internet and apps to help them make purchases.

I’ll leave you with this. Please don’t wait for a lawsuit, or the threat of one, to make you “care” about equitable access. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Think about the blind parent that is forced to stay home right now who attempted to buy a product for their son or daughter from your website. Think about the elderly who are being forced to use digital services for the first time in their lives, even to obtain everyday items because they are worried about visiting the store like they used to do. Think about the war veteran who lost her limbs in battle fighting for our country, who is using new free time due to “shelter in place” to shop on your website.

If people like this are not getting what they need, A360 can help! If you don’t know the status of your website, let us provide you with a Free Assessment and help you understand the business and legal implications of a non-accessible website.

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