Magento Accessibility Compliance: ADA, 508, EAA, and WCAG

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Magento Accessibility Compliance

Since over 43% of online stores have proven to be less accessible than other websites, it’s not surprising that e-commerce makes up for 82% of all website types regularly faced with costly accessibility lawsuits. So if your store is powered by Magento, achieving and maintaining Magento accessibility compliance is a reasonable concern.

To better understand Magento accessibility compliance, let’s explore some of the key regulations that your store needs to adhere to. We'll also discuss how to meet the most common standards and provide Magento accessibility best practices. But first —

What is Accessibility Compliance?

Accessibility compliance is the practice of ensuring that your website meets certain accessibility standards outlined in the laws, directives, or guidelines that affect the countries you do business in. The most important accessibility laws that apply to web stores, including those powered by Magento, include:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which outlines accessibility standards for all public businesses.
  • Section 508, an amendment to the 1972 Rehabilitation Act, which outlines accessibility standards for government agencies on their information and communication technology.
  • The European Accessibility Act which expands on the Web Accessibility Directive.
  • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that shares web standards and regulatory compliance for the entire digital realm. 

While the market now offers various accessibility compliance solutions (or “overlay widgets”), they only help achieve 30% adherence to the laws. To ensure full Magento accessibility compliance and prevent legal action, you need Magento tools built with accessibility in mind and thorough compliance testing against your local regulations.

Let’s take a look at these regulations in more detail.

ADA Compliance Accessibility with Magento

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a 1990 civil rights law in the United States that protects from discrimination based on disability. At the time the law was passed, the internet was in its infancy. But today’s consumers and citizens utilize the internet to access information, services, and products, regularly. This makes ADA compliance for website accessibility an important consideration for any public-facing business or government entity that has an online presence.

The ADA requirements are the same for both small and large organizations. In 2023, 73% of ADA lawsuits targeted businesses with revenues under $25 million. Meanwhile, the NFB v. Target Corporation ADA lawsuit which was opened in 2006 and settled for $6 million in 2008, serves as a caution tale of the significance of web accessibility compliance for large businesses. 

Magento ADA Compliance: Key Requirements

The responsibility for ADA compliance often lies with the website owners and developers. Here are some basic requirements to help you keep your Magento ADA compliant:

  • Accessible Website Structure – Use semantic HTML to provide a clear and meaningful structure of your Magento and provide a proper heading hierarchy for screen readers.
  • Focus and Navigation – Implement logical and consistent navigation flow, ensuring that users can easily identify and navigate through focusable elements.
  • Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) – Use ARIA attributes to enhance the accessibility of dynamic content and interactive elements.
  • Keyboard Accessibility – Make all website functionalities operable using a keyboard alone.
  • Text Alternatives – Add alt text to images and provide text descriptions for media content. 
  • Form Accessibility – Use clear and descriptive labels for form fields and ensure error messages are associated with the corresponding form fields.
  • Contrast and Color – Maintain sufficient color contrast for text and background elements.
  • Responsive Design – Design a responsive website for various devices and screen sizes.

Additionally, Magento store owners can look out for extensions that are specifically designed to support ADA compliance. While they won't help you achieve compliance of the entire website, they will guarantee adherence to ADA in the scope of their designated functionality.

Read More: The Basics of ADA E-commerce Compliance

Section 508 Accessibility Compliance with Magento

Section 508 refers to the Section 508 amendment of the Rehabilitation Act, which sets standards on how federal agencies ensure accessibility to electronic information technology. It covers many of the same bases as ADA and provides a robust framework for making your Magento website inclusive.

If your Magento website is intended for or used by federal agencies, it has to adhere to the accessibility standards outlined in Section 508. These standards are very similar to those of ADA and are designed to ensure that individuals with and without disabilities have equal access to and use of information. 

WCAG Accessibility Compliance for Magento Stores

Created and published by a standards organization called The World Wide Web Consortium, WCAG is the global gold standard for web accessibility on the internet. ADA compliance and WCAG compliance share many of the same considerations, and in fact, the first step many organizations take toward ADA compliance is consulting with WCAG guidelines.

Magento WCAG outlines key principles around which they’re designed. These are POUR attributes that accessible content should have:

  • Perceivable – Content should be perceived by a sense that users have.
  • Operable – Users can operate the interface through which content is presented.
  • Understandable – Both the content and user interface through which it's delivered should be feasibly understood by users.
  • Robust – The content can be accessed through various user agents including assistive technology, even as technology and format standards evolve.

Here are the regulations for making your Magento content perceivable:

  • Text Alternatives for non-text content.
  • Alternatives for time-based media (such as video or audio.)
  • Adaptable (so that content can be adapted in different formats.)
  • Distinguishable (so that content can be easily identified.)

The regulations for Magento operability include:

  • Keyboard accessibility
  • Enough time (to allow users to read and use content)
  • Seizures (ensure that content is not designed in a way known to cause seizures.)
  • Navigable (so that users can navigate, find content, and determine where they are.)
  • Input modalities (to ensure that users can choose from inputs beyond just keyboards.)

To be understandable, your Magento store should be:

  • Readable (text should be understandable and readable.)
  • Predictable (web pages should appear and operate in predictable manners.)
  • Input assistance (helping users avoid input errors.)

The assistive technologies that your Magento should support to remain robust include:

  • Audio players
  • Audio recorders
  • Screen readers
  • Magnifiers
  • Braille displays
  • Reading guides
  • Writing supports
  • Text-to-speech systems
  • Pointers

Read more: Amasty Goes ADA and WCAG Compliant

WCAG Accessibility Compliance Levels

WCAG defines three conformance levels – A, AA, and AAA – that represent different degrees of accessibility compliance and help organizations tailor their efforts to meet specific accessibility needs and goals. The levels are a scale, where Level A focuses on addressing the most fundamental accessibility features and Level AAA represents the highest level of accessibility compliance.

  • Level A (Basic Accessibility) Level A criteria ensure that the web content is accessible to some users with disabilities. Organizations typically start with Level A compliance to establish a baseline of accessibility.
  • Level AA (Standard Accessibility) This level makes content usable by a more extensive audience, including individuals with various disabilities. Achieving Level AA compliance is considered a standard and is often recommended for websites seeking to provide a reasonably accessible experience for a diverse user base.
  • Level AAA (Enhanced Accessibility) – Level AAA criteria address an extensive set of accessibility requirements and provide an enhanced user experience for individuals with disabilities. Achieving Level AAA is admirable, but it may not be practical or necessary for all websites, as it involves a comprehensive and detailed approach to accessibility.

Magento businesses can choose the WCAG conformance level that aligns with their goals, resources, and the level of inclusivity they aim to achieve. As a rule, achieving Level AA compliance automatically equals compliance with other country-specific regulations, like ADA or EAA.

Magento Compliance with the European Accessibility Act 

The European Accessibility Act (EAA) complements a Web Accessibility Directive and aims to enforce EU accessibility compliance. While WAD, introduced in 2016, applied only to the private sector of EU member states, EAA targets public and private sectors alike. Similar to ADA, it also doesn’t focus only on e-commerce and, instead, encompasses telecommunications, banking, public transport, and other industries.

EU members have already integrated EAA into their laws, making it enforceable by June 28, 2025 and applicable to all companies with more than 10 employees or an annual turnover above €2 million. While the EAA itself doesn’t provide any guidelines on how businesses should improve accessibility compliance, the best way to meet the law’s requirements is by achieving the WCAG AA level. It's a widely accepted framework for ensuring digital accessibility, making it a solid strategy for EAA compliance on Magento platforms.

Read More: Top E-Commerce Laws You Need to Follow

Beyond Compliance: The Benefits of Accessibility

Accessibility isn’t just about compliance with legal requirements. It’s also an important business consideration, a positive step toward providing accessible services and goods, and a strategy for impacting the way your brand is perceived. Here are some of the potential benefits of Magento accessibility compliance beyond avoiding legal action:

Demonstrating commitment to accessibility

An accessible website can send a clear message to the world: your brand values accessibility. While this is not typically the primary goal of accessibility, it can be helpful to demonstrate your brand’s commitment to an inclusive world.

Improving user experience

Accessibility accommodations aren’t only useful to those with disabilities. For example, alt text that accompanies images is helpful both to the blind and the users with slow download speeds or unstable internet connections. Similarly, closed captions can assist not only those who are hearing-impaired but also those who prefer or – due to a glitching speaker or forgotten earphones – can only read, not listen. 

Expanding your market

If your website doesn’t allow those with disabilities to use it, you could be missing out on a significant portion of your potential customer base. Specifically, 1.3 billion customers. By pursuing accessibility compliance for websites, you ensure that a wider range of potential customers can access your goods and services.

Optimizing for Google’s Standards

Ensuring your website aligns with accessibility standards is also a savvy move for search engine optimization (SEO). Following accessibility guidelines can positively impact your site's SEO, making it more discoverable. Google values accessibility, and by meeting these standards, you enhance your website's chances of ranking higher in search results.  

Magento Accessibility Compliance: Final Tips

Exploring all the relevant guidelines that we’ve shared above is a great way to start achieving Magento accessibility compliance. However, accessibility is an ongoing effort. To continuously ensure that your website is accessible, here are some best practices you can follow:

Perform a regular compliance audit

ADA and other accessibility compliance can be complex and require rigorous testing. Consider consulting with compliance experts and request an accessibility compliance report to ensure that your Magento website adheres to all web accessibility standards.

Openly welcome web accessibility feedback

Create a custom form in your Magento store to allow users to report accessibility gaps. This free-of-charge user testing can be invaluable in identifying problem areas. You can even a bug bounty program if you don’t have enough budget or time to handle QA services.

Stay updated on changes to important guidelines and laws

At the time of writing, WCAG 2.2 is the latest WCAG standard and (a website from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division) was last updated in March 2022. But as the tech evolves, new standards appear. Regularly monitor the updates and ensure full compliance – this way, you’ll avoid any breaches and reduce the chances of any legal action to the minimum.

March 5, 2024
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