Retailers – help your customers with disabilities help you!

Shoppin cart keyboardIsn’t it great to be able to make holiday travel arrangements and to purchase gifts online during the holidays at your own convenience?  For people with disabilities who may not have easy access to transportation, the opportunity is invaluable.  If you sell goods and services online, you have an eager market in this group that is 54 million people strong in the United States, maintains an aggregate income that now exceeds $1 trillion, and boasts $220 billion in discretionary spending power according to Fortune Magazine.

As ideal as it sounds, many online retailers fail to reach this valuable market because their web sites are not accessible.  The potential customer is likely to lose interest when form inputs aren’t labeled, graphic elements are not described, or the next step in a purchase process shows up in a modal dialogue that can’t be found by assistive technology.  These and other design barriers can make online shopping miserable for potential buyers with disabilities.

If your customers are frustrated, you want to know about it.  The Web Accessibility Initiative at the W3C has a resource to help them communicate with you in a constructive and useful way.  Consider posting a link on your shopping pages for customers who encounter shopping barriers.

The guide is called Contacting Organizations about Inaccessible Websites and can help your potential customers describe specific areas of pain.  Open the channels of communication to potential customers with disabilities.  You may make their holidays much merrier and give yourself the gift of a new customer who is likely to return.  May your all your holidays be bright!

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