How People with Disabilities Experience Your Online Business

I'm Caitlin

I'm Caitlin

I work with online service providers, course creators and community leaders to create digital experiences that are delightful, engaging, and smooth as buttah.

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The goal of digital accessibility (or “web accessibility”) is to make online content available to – and usable by – as many people as possible. And if you run an online business, that goal extends to your corner of the internet too.

1 in 4 people in the US experiences some form of disability (source) – That’s a potential quarter of your clients, students, and members!

And each person who puts their hands in your biz has the capacity to make it more – or less – accessible. Your copywriter, designer, virtual assistant, developer…we all have a part to play.

Graphic illustrating that 1 in 4 people in the United States have a disability. It shows 4 figures, both male and female, where 3 figures are red and one is orange.

If you’re here and interested in this topic, it’s probably for one of two reasons:

  • Risk management: You’ve heard about the increasing number of lawsuits brought against businesses like yours and don’t want to find yourself on the chopping block next. (Is this news to you? Check out Web Accessibility 101 for Online Businesses & Content Creators)


  • Inclusivity: You’re in service of humans and want to be available to the largest number of people possible – whether that’s for sales reasons, ethical reasons, or both.

When we talk about disabilities, we’re talking about a wide range of visual, auditory, physical, cognitive, and neurological experiences. This might look like color blindness, glaucoma, deafness, limited motor control, learning disabilities, epilepsy, etc.

The thing is, everyone is impaired at least some of the time. Think of:

  • Aging adults experiencing changes in their perception or abilities.
  • People with temporary disabilities such as an injury
  • People with situational limitations, like being somewhere they can’t listen to audio

In a society where checking email, watching YouTube, and sharing on social media is the norm, everyone deserves equal access to digital spaces. And by providing that access, we aren’t just supporting people with disabilities.

Digital accessibility gives everyone a flexible, supportive experience
(Including your clients, students, and members!)

Here’s three scenarios to help you understand some of the accessibility barriers we inadvertently create in our online businesses, and how we can solve for them:

Situation #1: An online shopper with color blindness

Imagine you’re an ecommerce business running a Black Friday sale. The sale prices are posted and your best selling item is available in fabulous new colors. Here’s what that sale might look like to someone who has color blindness:

“Lee is colorblind and encounters barriers when shopping online. He has one of the most common visual disabilities that affect men: red and green color blindness. Lee frequently shops online and sometimes encounters problems on websites and with apps where the color contrast of text and images is not adequate and where color alone is used to indicate required fields and sale prices. When red and green color combinations are used, Lee cannot distinguish between the two, since both look brown to him. It is also very difficult for him to make product choices when color swatches are not labeled with the name of the color.” (This story was pulled from

The solution: We could have avoided this situation by labeling color swatches, using high contrast colors, and using a combo of color and text to draw attention to sale prices.

Situation #2: A wannabe-buyer struggles with motor control

Imagine you’re an online service provider – a travel agent – who’s expanded your offerings. You set up a beautiful mega-menu to make it easy for people to see everything you offer, organized into categories, right at the top of your website. Here’s how that menu might work for someone with hand tremors:

The solution: This situation could be improved by using bigger buttons to create a larger click target and swapping the pull-out menus for a menu structure that’s easier to control.

Situation #3: A student with ADHD & Dyslexia

Imagine you’re a course creator, putting the final touches on your latest workbook PDF. Your designer added some gorgeous graphics using your favorite snazzy script font and it looks amazing. The course runs in real time, and there’s a limited time special offer available at the end. Here’s how the course might go for someone with dyslexia:

Petra signed up for a course where all of the materials are digital. She uses text-to-speech software that highlights the words on her screen as she reads them aloud, helping her focus on the content. She likes when graphics and illustrations are used in a way that draws her attention to important information, but the script font is nearly unreadable and her software can’t read it because it’s actually a graphic. It takes her much longer than her peers to finish the course, and the limited time offer has expired by the time she’s complete. (Petra was inspired by a story from

Solution: This situation could be improved by not putting text inside of graphics, avoiding super stylized fonts that may be hard to read, ditching artificial urgency sales tactics, and making any genuine time limits clear early in the experience.

Creating accessible spaces for your clients, students, and members

Food for thought: Is the person disabled because they have a disability? Or are they disabled because we’ve set up systems in a way that does not enable them? (Thanks to Jim Byrne for this concept!)

26% of people in the US experience some form of disability and they are 3 times as likely as those without a disability to say they never go online (source).

And if your 

  • snazzy brand colors are confusing to someone who’s colorblind…
  • fancy Canva graphics have text in them that the screen readers can’t read…
  • flashy graphics are disorienting to someone with epilepsy…

…can you blame them?

It’s not realistic for us to design with every disability in mind, but we can hold onto an accessible “north star” when designing so as not to block significant swaths of the population. 

And you do this by making accessible choices at every level of content creation. Each person on your team contributes to this initiative, and you can support them by sharing this article (look for share buttons below) and passing along the Web Accessibility Checklist for Content Creators & Editors.

Looking for a tech + marketing superhero that designs with accessibility in mind?

Headshot of Caitlin, smiling, wearing a striped collared shirt on a blue background.

Hey there, I’m Caitlin!

I work with online service providers, course creators and community leaders to create digital marketing + client systems that look darn good – and work together seamlessly.

Grab the Ebook:

Digital Accessibility for Online Business Owners & Content Creators

Ebook cover reads: Digital Accessibility for Online Business Owners & Content Creators

If you want to build an accessible online business but the “how” feels elusive, it’s not just you – digital accessibility is in its wild west years, with snake oil salesmen to boot. Get the facts –  and learn to spot the quacks – with this easy-to-read ebook.

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