female mechanic in yellow hard hat working on engine - metaphor to shopify website remediation providers

Shopify WCAG Remediation Tips

David Gibson

Shopify is a wonderful ecommerce platform. We love it. But out of the box, it’s not accessible. So unless you’ve recently had a qualified accessibility consultant provide a WCAG audit, followed by WCAG remediation to bring your Shopify website into ADA compliance… then I can guarantee you that it isn’t.

And that’s a problem for two reasons. First you’re jeopardizing sales to over 61 million with disabilities in the US. Second is the very real legal risk posed by an increasing number of law firms forcing ADA compliance with demand letters and suits. Retail ecommerce website are the number one target for ADA trolls.


WCAG Remediation for Shopify Websites 

The ADA and WCAG Overview

The process for making your Shopify site accessible starts with understanding what the law and standards are. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 and in recent years, the DOJ and the courts have made it clear that websites are “places of public accommodation” and thus subject to the ADA. While the DOJ has failed to set the technical guidelines for compliance, the Web Content Accessibility Guideline serves as the de facto standard for web accessibility. The current version of the WCAG is 2.1 and comes in 3 levels: A, AA, AAA. To conform to the ADA your website must meet WCAG 2.0 A, AA levels.


WCAG Audit of the Shopify Website

The best practice is a 3-factor audit that combines the results of automated, manual, and assistive technology into one comprehensive audit. Do not even consider relying solely on an automated audit. Even the best can only detect ~30% of WCAG issues, because these issues are nuanced and interpretive. To do this right you need to also add manual and assistive technology testing (screen readers, etc) of unique pages/templates to capture the other 70% of issues. Further, you want to be sure that the Shopify accessibility consultant you use, provides remediation guidance for each and every item. This is what we do, and we even include relevant screen-shots. Quality reporting at this level will greatly reduce the number of false positives, and well written remediation guidance will greatly reduce the time/cost impact on the remediation team.


Shopify WCAG Remediation Overview

With a thorough audit in hand, then you can either hire a qualified Shopify remediation specialist, or hire an accessibility remediation consultant to guide your team. 

Design remediation will include items such as color, contrast, size, spacing, and page structure.  

Content remediation will include items that can be addressed through the Content Management System (CMS). These would include items such as image labels (alt tags), or the structure of headings (H1, H2, H3, etc). The content team would also handle captioning video content. Content remediation is not technical but tedious and makes good work for interns.  

Development remediation will include the bulk of issues found in the front-side code : the CSS/HTML/Javascript layer. The good news is that Shopify sites are built using templates, shared modules, global libraries, etc... so one issue found on every page in a header element for example can potentially be eliminated with one fix. If the audit reporting is thorough and provides strong remediation guidance, a team of good developers should be able to address most issues on their own. Otherwise you may want to consider bringing in a team of WCAG remediation experts.


Choosing The Best Shopify Remediation Companies

Accessibility is fairly new and these waves of demand letters and lawsuits have become so prevalent that many providers looking to get in on this are just grabbing software off the shelf and claiming to be website remediation experts. Few however have both the experience in web development and accessibility. Our accessibility teammates for example all have over 16 years in digital accessibility and we’ve been building website for over 23 years. Experience is the key, so make sure to learn about the development and accessibility experience of the remediation consultants early on. 


Web accessibility remediation pitfalls to avoid

There is a growing breed of too-good-to-be-true “overlay” solution providers who claim that by adding a simple snippet of code to each page, they can automagically make any website WCAG compliant. Without naming names, these rely on automated tools that can only detect ~30% of issues in the first place. They address the light easy items, and may be able to fool the automated testing tools that trolling plaintiffs may use, but they do not provide the accessibility needed by people with actual disabilities, and thus the intent of the ADA and RA Sect 508. > more


Just be smart. If it sounds too good to be true, trust that it is.