E-Commerce Must Start Doing Better for the Disabled

Posted on January 8, 2019

A lawsuit was recently filed against Beyoncé, and the claim at hand raises a serious question in e-commerce. How do online-centric companies accommodate the visually impaired?

Parkwood Entertainment LLC — founded by Beyoncé — is facing a class-action suit from Mary Conner, who is legally blind. Conner’s suit claims the megastar’s website discriminates against the visually impaired. More specifically, the lawsuit states the website doesn’t allow blind fans the opportunity to buy tickets, get tour updates, buy merchandise, and more. Thus, the claim is that Beyonce.com is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on a disability. 

Conner’s complaint stems from discovering she was unable to buy a hoodie on the site without guidance from another person. And this is where we clearly see something to be learned on a large scale within e-commerce.

The case of Conner v. Parkwood is really just a microcosm of the e-commerce struggle for the visually impaired. It is far too common for sites to neglect their needs, or the needs any disability for that matter.

It’s not overly difficult to be accommodating, though. There has long been screen-reading software that verbalizes site content. But that software is rendered useless without proper descriptions and alt-text included throughout a site. Not only is that a hindrance to those with disabilities, but it’s also a very unwise SEO strategy

This isn’t limited to the visually impaired, either. Videos without proper captions can present difficulties for those with hearing impairments. Also, imagine those with dyslexia navigating a site without a quality map. 

An estimated one billion people (15 percent of the world population) live with a disability. It’s certainly worthwhile to ensure e-commerce is accessible to them all. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s also likely to boost your business. If you’re neglecting these practices, you’re only narrowing your potential audience.

For a detailed guide on site accessibility for all, click here to view a checklist from the Web Accessibility Initiative.