Just before the Christmas Break, an article appeared on the BBC website about the accessibility of shops. The article highlighted that retailers were:
“missing out on £249 billion because many are inaccessible to disabled customers”.
The focus on the article was on physical disability access with, a specific angle on wheelchair access. There are of course other considerations with retailers such as Debenhams providing multiple services including personal shoppers, which can be of great benefit to blind shoppers for example (RNIB).
However, the lack of any mention of digital accessibility was striking even though retailers have a responsibility under the Equality Act 2010 to provide access to their goods online as well as in store. Therefore, we felt that we should take up the mantle and do a series on digital retail accessibility.
What we will do
The first step to understanding whether or not a site is more accessible for disabled people is to do an audit against WCAG 2.0. Therefore, Marie and Natalie have selected 6 retailers (from across the retail spectrum) and will be doing a quick review to see how they fare, linking back to Level AA compliance.
How we will review the sites
To keep things simple, they will look at keyboard accessibility and screen reader compatibility across all the sites, looking at the following user journey:
✔ Homepage and search
✔ Browse (including any product category and product range pages)
✔ Selection (product page and basket)
✔ Payment (delivery and payment details)
They will use the browse and purchase journey flow as this is the main reason for the site and therefore is a good indicator for the retailer’s approach to accessibility.
To keep things concise, they are going to focus on the major aspects of WCAG 2.0 Level AA within the above as an indicator of accessibility. These are as follows:
✔ Use of headings
✔ Alt text for images
✔ Availability of skip links
✔ Inclusion of a visible focus
✔ Access to forms
✔ Use of ARIA to provide greater context
✔ Access of pop ups / modal windows
✔ Colour contrast
✔ Navigating around is in a logical order
✔ Links are meaningful and describe their purpose
Sites will be scored as follows:
0: No accessibility work appears to have been done.
1: The site has very limited accessibility features but the site appears largely inaccessible.
2: The site has some accessibility features but implementation is sporadic and the site still remains pretty much inaccessible.
3: The site has many accessibility features; however, there are a fair few gaps and inconsistencies. A disabled person may be able to use it but would likely struggle or need assistance in places.
4: The site is very close to WCAG 2.0 Level AA but with some minor failures and problems.
5: The site would appear to pass a WCAG 2.0 Level AA audit.
The article touches on a new scheme which will “recruit industry ‘champions’ to lead by good example and best practice” when it comes to easy access on the high street. We are interested to see which of our retailers are leading the way with accessibility online.