Web accessibility, WCAG and ADA Compliance  for BigCommerce

BigCommerce is an all-in-one, store-building platform known for providing retailers with the whole package for online stores from themes and marketing tools to countless eCommerce apps. All the solutions Ecommerce businesses need. All but one: accessibility.

See the accessiBe installation guide for BigCommerce here

Accessibility is essential for online stores because it expands their market reach, helps them generate more revenue, and boosts their reputation. As of 2018, when the DOJ affirmed that business websites must comply with the ADA, accessibility also helps them avoid web accessibility lawsuits and hefty settlement sums.

However, BigCommerce currently does not support or maintain accessibility compliance for its users. In fact, in their accessibility statement, BigCommerce states “Merely using an eCommerce platform (like BigCommerce) for your website is not sufficient to ensure ADA compliance… ultimately, ensuring that a site is ADA compliant is the responsibility of the merchant.” 

They do claim that their default storefront and checkout experience are compliant with the WCAG 2.1 AA, the most widely adopted standards for accessible websites, but they refer to one element: WCAG 3.1 ‘make text content readable and understandable’. Ultimately, they fail to communicate that without the rest of the surrounding elements, the website is inaccessible and noncompliant. The content may be readable but is it compliant with screen readers for blind people? Is the storefront navigable by keyboard for people with motor disabilities? The answer is no.

This means that BigCommerce users who wish to make their websites accessible and ADA compliant must do it themselves. Luckily, BigCommerce does provide direct code access to their themes with built-in catalog tools but incorporating accessibility elements can be tricky even for the most advanced developers. This is because accessibility compliance is dependent on remediating your website according to the WCAG, which is a 1000-page instruction manual that needs to be meticulously adhered to. But even more daunting is that it completely cancels out the ‘easy-to-use’ element that attracts users in the first place.

Users can choose to outsource their remediation to third parties. Keep in mind that it’s a process that can take months to implement and even then your website should be constantly monitored to ensure that any content updates don’t affect your compliance status. Not to mention, it costs thousands of dollars. For eCommerce stores that need to keep up with the speed of digital sales, time and money are two factors that can rarely be freed for accessibility remediation.

The importance of an accessible BigCommerce website

As more people turn to the Internet to buy goods and products, inaccessible eCommerce stores are strongly felt. Since 20% of the population lives with a disability, you can be sure that many people with disabilities are encountering your online store. If they can’t access what they want to buy, they’ll most likely never return and you could be losing out on significant revenue.

In many cases, they could sue your online store for noncompliance with the ADA. Since the aforementioned DOJ affirmation, web accessibility lawsuits have gone up by 300%, more than half involving online retailers and eCommerce stores. 

Using accessiBe with BigCommerce

with accessiBe, you don’t have to choose between beauty and accessibility. accessiBe’s AI-driven, automated solution makes existing websites ADA compliant by remediating the website’s code according to the WCAG 2.1 AA. accessiBe’s solution is session-based, meaning only those with disabilities will see adjusted design elements, leaving your design completely intact.