Shopify Accessibility: ADA Compliance for E-Commerce Websites

Laptop on table with shopping cart icon on screen.
Online retailers are frequently targeted in “ADA website” litigation.

(Updated for 2023)

Online retailers are continually the target of “ADA website” litigation.

And because Shopify is the most prominent platform, many Shopify store owners have received demand letters. Below are my recommendations for preventing a demand letter or “lawsuit”.

Recommendations for Shopify Websites

  1. Don’t rely on automated “solutions” for “ADA compliance” or “WCAG conformance” (e.g., Shopify apps, overlays, widgets, etc.)
  2. Hire a provider to conduct a WCAG 2.1 AA audit
  3. Prioritize your remediation with the claims commonly found in litigation.

Let’s dive into the details.


Don’t Fall for the “Instant-Fixes”

So many Shopify owners have fallen for the illusion of automated accessibility. They’ll buy an “accessibility” app from the Shopify marketplace and think they’ve resolved the issue.

Any seller that claims to make your website instantly ADA compliant or WCAG conformant is a fraud. Again, automated “solutions” for website accessibility are scams.

There are “accessibility apps” in the Shopify marketplace and they all fail as a solution for accessibility and they’re as worthless as the overlay widgets being sold by vendors outside of Shopify.

Here are four “accessibility” apps I found in the Shopify marketplace:

  • Accessibility Toolkit
  • Accessibility Enabler
  • Accessibility Assistant
  • Accessibly

None of these “help” with ADA compliance and, at best, they offer marginal benefit in terms of accessibility.

There are a handful of 5-star reviews but they’re likely coming from Shopify merchants who don’t know the apps are worthless (not being sued is not evidence of legitimacy, it just means you haven’t been sued).

Whether it’s billed as software, a plugin, a toolbar, an AI powered whatever, anything that doesn’t involve manual work is a lie.

Why do all of these accessibility apps fail?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re on Shopify or operate a normal website on any other platform, accessibility apps amount to pretend accessibility; they don’t address the underlying code of the website nor do they make content accessible.

Manual WCAG 2.1 AA Audit and Remediation

The path to true digital accessibility (and compliance) is in WCAG 2.1 AA conformance.

(Read my WCAG for beginners article for the perfect quick and concise explanation of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.)

Sure, automated scans like WAVE from WebAim or Axe from Deque can help speed up the process and reduce errors but scans are just a start.

Automated scans (sometimes referred to as checkers) are very useful tools to gauge your current level of accessibility but there are many issues they can’t detect (they only flag roughly 25% of WCAG 2.1 AA issues) and even the ones that they flag need a manual review.

To truly make your website accessible, you need one or more experts putting in manual effort to evaluate and remediate your website.

WCAG 2.1 AA is the version and conformance level I recommend striving for. WCAG 2.0 AA conformance is a great start but 2.1 takes into account multiple mobile accessibility issues and with so much browsing and shopping on mobile, 2.1 AA is your best bet.

WCAG 2.2 will be released at some point, but don’t let 2.2’s release distract you. Focus on 2.1.

Prioritize Key Issues

Not all accessibility issues carry the same significance.

Some are potential blockers or barriers that can stop shoppers from making a purchase. Others carry high risk for litigation.

There’s a decent overlap between the two.

Here are the accessibility issues I commonly see from Shopify websites:

  • Missing skip navigation links
  • Non-navigable submenus
  • No focus indicator
  • Inaccurate or missing labels
  • Insufficient and/or repetitive alt text
  • Text bedded within images
  • Missing or improper headings
  • Keyboard traps
  • Sliders or carousels (even if you make sliders accessible per WCAG, they’re still problematic for accessibility, the best practice is to avoid them)

The good news is the #1 accessibility claim made in demand letters and lawsuits is missing alternative or alt text values and most Shopify owners are technically savvy enough to update their alt attributes inside images.

Missing form field labels is also commonly cited in litigation so you’ll want to make sure all of your forms including registration and checkout forms have labels.

Clean code is not directly listed in claims that I have read, but the fallout from having bad code can be. Broken or empty links are frequently part of claims made against website owners.


Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the foundational anti-discrimination law when it comes to website accessibility, there are other laws in play, particularly California and New York state laws.

A violation of the California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act is commonly alleged by California plaintiffs law firms and violations of the New York State / City Human Rights Law is frequently utilized by New York plaintiffs lawyers.

These state and local laws provide for more damages than the ADA.

A big positive is compliance with the ADA and other laws, both in the United States and internationally, generally comes down to WCAG conformance.

In a Nutshell

The Shopify platform could absolutely do more to ensure their out-of-the-box accessibility is better. Moreover, store templates should be required to do the same.

This would go a long way to help non-technical store owners.

However, even if Shopify improves accessibility in 2023, store owners still have to make sure that the customizations they make and they content they add are accessible.