Do accessibility apps really work on Shopify

By Ilana Davis

Every few weeks I see questions about web accessibility. Shopify store owners are desperately searching for a way to make their sites more accessible.

Enter web accessibility apps.

But are these apps actually helpful?

I got into it months ago with a well-respected Shopify Partner on Twitter who was promoting one of these apps. This particular app they recommended was, in their opinion, “the best of the accessibility apps on Shopify.”

The best of the worst is still not great! After going head to head with this person on Twitter (why do we do these things to ourselves), I couldn’t do it any longer. I’ve summarized their thoughts below.

  1. It may not help all, but it helps some.
  2. It doesn’t solve the problem of full compliance with WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines)
  3. After doing research, this is the best of the accessibility apps on Shopify.
  4. It’s good enough

Good enough isn’t acceptable. There is a genuine need for full web accessibility and no CMS does this well right now.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we all raced online to order our supplies since shopping in person was limited. Imagine being a visually impaired person who had to order supplies online. In many cases, they were met with inaccessible website after website, even when an accessibility app was installed.

These apps can also draw attention to stores because it’s easy to get a list of who’s using the app. It feels like a giant target on my back, why would I want that?

Additionally, some of these apps provide a web accessibility certificate, but will they stand next to you in court? Heck, who’s helping these apps that are subject to many lawsuits of their own?

Instead, I advocate for demanding change from Shopify, developers (apps and themes), and store owners/operators. Shopify has made major strides recently and the Dawn theme is the most compliant. There are things within your control and you, only you, are responsible for web accessibility on your Shopify store.

These apps may be better than nothing, I’ll give you that. But it’s not solving the actual problem. Apps like this create an overlay (on top of your pages) to “improve web accessibility” but this is a band-aid. You can cover a gaping hole in your body with a band-aid. But if the hole is big enough, it just hides the hole from view. The hole is still there!

Yes, there are ambulance chasers, shame on them. And yes, some merchants install the app to avoid/get out of a lawsuit. No, these apps do not solve web accessibility (which is a broad stroke) on Shopify.

Also, I get it that these lawyers are frustrating… but please remember that there is a genuine need for accessibility. So don’t let these jerks cloud the need for web accessibility.

If you are subject to a web accessibility lawsuit, TALK TO A LAWYER. Then educate yourself on what makes a site accessible before jumping to an app. Actually, educate yourself first and hopefully avoid issues that may arise altogether.

My hope is that one day, web accessibility will be the rule, not the exception.

P.S. Some accessibility apps have been removed or have left the Shopify ecosystem. So although I may reference apps in the links above, this applies to accessibility apps as a whole.


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