DIY Website Builders (Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, GoDaddy, Weebly, etc.) CANNOT Produce ADA Compliant Websites

Nov 15, 2021 | ADA/WCAG Conformance

You Can’t Fix What You Can’t Access

Wix, Shopify, Weebly, GoDaddy, Squarespace or any other “do it yourself” platforms to build your website sounds like a pretty good deal as they sell you on the easy interface for dragging and dropping your content where you want it. It’s cheap too with low monthly fees. What they’re not telling you is there are problems with this approach, especially with regard to making an ADA compliant website.

Whether you own an e-commerce website or a blog, your aim is a larger audience and more visitors. Implementing web accessibility standards to your site will increase your readers and profits as well as ensure your compliance with the ADA. That’s one way to think of web accessibility. But its aim isn’t to bring you more profits.

Locked Source Code for DIY Website Builders

The WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) aims to make all the information on the web available with no limits to everyone, whether or not they have challenges or disabilities that most other web users do not.

In order to implement many of the WCAG standards there is a requirement to access the source code of the website. In other words, it has to be “open source”.

A major issue with accessing the source code of DIY website builders is: YOU CAN’T.

The websites that DIY website builders generate for their users are “close sourced”.

This means that users of DIY website builders, including website developers, cannot access the actual source code to make changes and additions for WCAG/ADA compliance. Moreover, these changes cannot be made automatically.

Think of it this way: Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, GoDaddy,Weebly, etc. have furnished tens of millions into building their platforms. But these platforms do not allow you to access your personal website’s source code or database as their platform keeps that code secret (proprietary). In order to make the source code changes required for compliance you would need to access to the entire source code for their entire application. Clearly none of these companies can allow that as it would give away all of the inner workings of their products, their “secret sauce”.

Users initially don’t realize the gravity of the situation until they realize their website needs to be ADA compliant and speak with customer support that gives nothing but bad news. Also, they have a crafty business model. Their free trial versions are perfect lures to maximize the number of users on the platform. Once the trial expires, the user feels compelled to continue their website since they’ve already spent a lot of time on it.

Please see the Additional Information section below for articles on how DIY website builders cannot be made to comply with the WCAG and the ADA.

Industry Analysis

Retailers were cited the most in website accessibility lawsuits. Food Service surpassed Entertainment and Leisure year over year. Education made the top 5 for the first time.

  • Retail: 77.55%
  • Food Service: 7.77%
  • Other: 3.38%
  • Education: 2.45%
  • Entertainment & Leisure: 1.44%
  • Banking/Financial: 1.38%
  • Insurance: 1.32%
  • Healthcare: 1.21%
  • Travel/Hospitality: 1.04%
  • Automotive: 0.99%
  • Digital Media & Agencies: 0.68%
  • Fitness & Wellness: 0.39%
  • Real Estate Agencies & Properties: 0.31%
  • Telecommunications: 0.08%

Additional Information

  • Wix has a disclaimer that states that “Compliance is a legal matter. Therefore, once you’ve completed the checklist, you’ll need to have your site audited by a local, legal Accessibility Consultant.”Accessibility: Compliance with Your Regional Laws Wix Support Center

  • Squarespace has a disclaimer as well. “Squarespace can’t provide advice about making your site compliant with any specific accessibility laws, regulations, or standards.”Making your Squarespace site more accessible Squarespace | October 25, 2021

  • “I’ve read hundreds of ADA compliance / web accessibility demand letters and lawsuits against owners of ecommerce websites on the Shopify platform.”Shopify Accessibility: ADA Compliance for E-Commerce Websites Kris Rivenburgh, Attorney-at-Law | Founder of Accessible.org | March 16, 2020

  • “It is not possible to start with a Wix or GoDaddy template and turn it into something that is accessible.” Businesses — Why using Wix and GoDaddy Increases your Lawsuit Risk Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC | Disability Advocate | March 17, 2019

  • The GoDaddy representative in their community forum states that “You are responsible for making your site accessible not GoDaddy or WordPress.”Accessibility for the blind GoDaddy Community Forum

  • Weebly is still not handicap accessible/ADA compliant and requires their users to vote on whether they should have ADA Accessibility Features Weebly Community Forum | Most recent post on this issue: February 28, 2021

  • Are Weebly Websites ADA Compliant? The short answer is no. WCAG Pros | IAAP Organizational Member | May 21, 2021

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