Audit reveals top 50 retail websites are not compliant with accessibility guidelines

Inclusive and accessible: retail websites are improving (Image: shutterstock)

Inclusive and accessible: retail websites are improving (Image: shutterstock)

With more than one billion people, 15% of the world’s population, reporting some form of disability that impacts their ability to navigate a website, research finds that none of the world’s top 50 websites are compliant with digital accessibility guidelines.

Reading difficulties, visual impairments, cognitive and physical disabilities all affect how users consume web content and navigate digital experiences. To support awareness efforts and promote digital accessibility in the areas of education, technology, and corporate social responsibility, experience analytics company Contentsquare has assessed the preparedness of retailers and brands digital accessibility ahead of the tenth annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The company has launched a nonprofit organisation, the Contentsquare Foundation

In an effort to highlight the work that has already been done and where more accessibility is needed, Contentsquare undertook a partial audit of each of the top 50 retail websites’ homepages, analyzing accessibility compliance against five key criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, as outlined by the Web Accessibility Initiative (see methodology).

It finds that, of the top 50 retail brand sites audited, none are fully compliant and that five of the websites are more than 80% accessible based on audit criteria. The most common error among top retail sites is related to navigation, content and structure titles (WCAG 2.4.1). The most respected accessibility rule was regarding links (WCAG 2.4.4).

“This year taught us we need to do more to make sure every website is accessible to everyone,” says Marion Ranvier, Director of the Contentsquare Foundation. “During the pandemic, consumers headed online in order to buy food, clothing, electronics, housewares, and anything else they needed to maintain their daily lives. However, not everyone had an easy time with the transition. Website accessibility is a basic human right that we are proud to advocate for.”

Julia Edbrooke, UX Designer at Widen, a company that designs, develops, and provides digital asset management and product information management software, comments: “Global Accessibility Awareness Day is an important reminder for those working in the tech space to always keep the billion people on earth who live with disabilities and impairments front of mind.”

She continues: “Digital transformation has accelerated in recent years, and with increased services moving online, it’s even more essential that tech companies lead the charge in making their offerings accessible for all. The pandemic and international lockdowns have created an environment where many of us have had to rely on technology to carry out everyday functions in the digital world, whether that be online banking or arranging grocery deliveries.”

Edbrooke concludes: “There are some great website audit tools, such as Google Lighthouse, which allows developers to see a score of how accessible their website actually is in the form of a percentage. The goal should be to make all new websites and software 100% accessible. Legacy software can require more effort to retrospectively update, but companies must take strides to reach that point of accessibility. It is about creating software which fosters a culture of diversity, empathises with users, and prioritises inclusivity when building software. Today is a day to celebrate inclusivity. The world is not as accessible as it should be for everyone and we in the tech industry have a duty to lead the way in tackling this issue.”

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