Person online shopping for gifts with an accessibility symbol

Is your website ready for holiday shopping?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner. Is your eCommerce website prepared for a wave of holiday shoppers with disabilities?

In 2018, the National Retail Foundation reported that 4 out of 10 consumers would start shopping as early as November 1st, and 55% of their purchases would be made online. These number of online shoppers increased 40% from the previous year, and 2019 is likely to continue on this upward trend.

While most businesses prepare by improving their security and site performance measures, if your site or app isn’t accessible to people with disabilities, you could be missing out on a significant market share or be at risk for legal complaints.

Capture a huge, overlooked market share

Approximately one in five people in the United States, or 64 million, have a disability.

Chart showing disposable income amounts in the billions for people with disabilities
Ranking disposable income in the billions for people with disabilities: Independent living difficulty $140 billion, Ambulatory around $118 billion, Cognitive at $98 billion, Hearing difficulty at $82 Billion, Vision difficult at $44 billion, and self-care disability at $4 billion.

The total after-tax disposable income for working-age people with disabilities is approximately $490 billion. For comparison, African Americans’ disposable income is $501 billion and for people of Hispanic origin, it is $582 billion.

In 2018, an estimated 165.8 million consumers shopped between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday. So if we do the math, approximately 33.16 million (1 out of 5) consumers on Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday could be shoppers with disabilities. Furthermore, studies have shown that two-thirds of people with disabilities will abandon a website if it is inaccessible. However they don’t abandon the purchase – they simply buy from your competitor.

Not only does having an accessible website boost earning potential for your organization, but it improves your organization’s brand value. Younger consumers whose buying decisions are influenced by social justice will be less likely to trust your brand if your site is inaccessible. In fact, 9 out of 10 blind internet users are vocal anti-advocates for inaccessible companies.

It is important to note that mobile accessibility is also crucial for gaining people with disabilities as potential customers, as two-thirds of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers turned to their mobile devices to research and purchase holiday items.

Survey research data collected by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies (Wireless RERC) indicate that 84% of people with disabilities own or use a cellphone or smartphone. When including tablets, that statistic raises the wireless device ownership rate for people with disabilities to 91%.

Avoid a costly complaint or lawsuit

If your site is inaccessible, you’re not only missing out on a huge, overlooked market, but you’re potentially at risk for a legal complaint or lawsuit. In fact, ADA Web Accessibility-Related Lawsuits exploded 181% – from 2017 (814) to 2018 (2285).

Real-world numbers from an accessibility-related lawsuit show that legal fees (not including settlement fees) alone could cost you more than $350,000…

Action Participant Hours/Participant Total Hours Extended Costs
Lawyers Assigned, Business Notified 8 2 16 $3,600.00
Outside Counsel Retainer (Estimate) $150,000.00
Initial Communication to Involved 45 2 90 $20,250.00
Hold Order Processing 45 3 135 $30,375.00
Outside Counsel Documents 8 8 64 $14,400.00
Initial Discover (Ordered by Judge) 10 24 240 $54,000.00
Status Meetings 7 10 70 $15,750.00
Prep Court Status Hearing 6 5 30 $6,750.00
Prep for Negotiation 6 5 30 $6,750.00
Negotiation 3 3 9 $2,025.00
Settlement Draft 5 5 25 $5,625.00
Settlement Draft Review 10 4 40 $9,000.00
Settlement Finalization 5 2 10 $2,250.00
Settlement Processing 3 2 6 $1,350.00
Hold Older Release 45 2 90 $20,250.00
Close Project, File, Documentation 8 8 64 $14,400.00
Litigation Grand Total $356,775.00

*A blended rate of $250/hour utilized in calculations.

Furthermore, accessibility complaints from unhappy customers can result in approximately $994,950 annually. Please see below for my calculations based on experience as a founder and owner of the Digital Accessibility Program Office for a Fortune 50 Insurance Company:

Action Participant Hours/Participant Total Hours Extended Cost
CSO/Email/Chat Receipt 1 .75 .75 $90.00
CSO/Email/Chat Accommodation 2 .75 1.5 $180.00
Documentation of Issue  1 .75 .75 $90.00
Processing of Issues 1 1.5 1.5 $180.00
Spool Up Fix Project 5 4.5 22.5 $2,700.00
Design 1 4.5 4.5 $540.00
Code 1 9 9 $1,080.00
QA 1 7.5 7.5 $900.00
Production Issuance 5 4.5 22.5 $2,700.00
Spool Down Project 5 2.5 12.5 $1,500.00
Customer Follow-Up 1 .75 .75 $90.00
Complaint Grand Total $10,050.00

A blended rate of $120/hour utilized in calculations.

Factors Calculations
Scale Factor of Design vs. Production Defect 100X
Proactive Fix Cost in Design $100.50
Reactive Fix Cost in Production $9,949.50
100 Complaints Per Year to Fix in Post Production Could Cost $994,950.00

Using previous IBM studies as a reference, the cost of fixing a defect in production can be as much as 100x more than addressing it in design or development.

Our estimated cost of activities is $10,050 – using this scale factor, it would have cost only $100.50 to fix this defect in the early design or development phase. By subtracting the proactive fix cost from the total reactive fix, you’ve got a loss of $9,949.50.

Even if your organization only receives 10 complaints a year, that’s about a $100,000 loss. With survey/research results showing visually impaired people using call centers for service and complaints about once per week, 100 complaints per year are not hard to imagine.

Next Steps

If your website is inaccessible, not only are you at risk for costly complaints or lawsuits, but you’re also missing out on a huge, overlooked market for your business. You can use the statistics above to make the business, fiscal, and legal case for your organization to invest in accessibility before holiday shopping begins. Below are a few simple steps your organization can take to start with accessibility:

  1. Start simple with free, open-source automated testing tools, such as axe. Such tools can catch between 30-50% of accessibility issues. Axe is also available as a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox, and there are axe tools for testing Android applications and iOS (coming soon).
  2. Contact us for consultation regarding other services, training, or tools that could help your organization on its accessibility journey.
Photo of Greg Williams

About Greg Williams

Greg Williams is the Vice President & Chief Program Architect at Deque Systems, Inc. He oversees program development and operations for some of Deque’s largest customers, helping them to build mature, sustainable accessibility programs.

Prior to joining Deque, Greg spent more than 30 years in the information technology field focusing on large, complex program operations for Fortune 40 companies and before that served in the United States Navy for a number of years. He had great success as the founder and owner of the Digital Accessibility Program Office for State Farm Insurance, building their practice from the ground up into one of the highest maturity level programs in the world between 2013 and 2018.

Greg has always been passionate about diversity and inclusion and has extended this passion to the disability and accessibility community - joining Deque Systems in 2018 to help launch and mature similarly successful programs across the globe.
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Comments 1 response

  1. This seems like a no-brainer. Although it takes money to make money, I can see why businesses wouldn’t do it to save money, but then could get sued. If they did make it accessible, there’s money to be made and lessens the possibility of lawsuits. Why do you believe the lawsuits jumped so many from 2017 (814) to 2018 (2285)? What is the average amount of time for lawsuits to reach a resolution? What is the average percent of those find actual inaccessibility? (I’m guessing all of them)

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