Travelers with disabilities come across many barriers when planning, booking, and taking a trip, whether for business or pleasure. Some of these may only be minor inconveniences, but others can make travel extremely difficult or even impossible without help. When thinking about disability, organizations think first about those who are blind, deaf, or in a wheelchair. However, it is important to consider the full range of disabilities, including “invisible” ones like colorblindness, arthritis, autism, or dyslexia. These conditions can affect how travelers interact with your websites, mobile apps, kiosks, or other information and communications technology.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulates access to the physical world, legislation related to the Internet is only now starting to catch up. In the absence of legislation, people with disabilities and their advocates have resorted to litigation to achieve access to the information and services on the web that other people take for granted.
What is Digital Accessibility?
Digital accessibility is the practice of making websites, mobile applications, kiosks, and other information and communications systems usable to people with disabilities. When digital assets are correctly designed and developed to be accessible, all users can have equal access to information and functionality. While there will be parts of the experience that cannot be made 100% accessible, the core information and functions should be able to be used by as many people as possible.
What Technologies Need to be Accessible?
Anything that provides useful information or services must be accessible to users with disabilities.
- Web applications
- Mobile websites
- Mobile applications
- Self-service systems (e.g., kiosks)
- Software applications
- Electronic documents
Researching a Travel Destination
Finding information about accessible rooms, tours, maps, and routes can be problematic. – Jonathan Avila, Level Access Chief Accessibility Officer
Everyone loves to plan a dream vacation: picking a far-off place to visit, mapping out places for your sight-seeing list, getting recommendations from friends and family who have been there before you. It’s lots of fun!
In the days before the Internet, people went to their local library to check out travel guidebooks or enlisted the help of a travel agent. These days, we can do it all online with just a few clicks of the mouse, saving time and money.
That is, unless your website isn’t accessible. Let’s look at some sample travelers with disabilities and see how travel websites aren’t meeting their needs:
Amari, who is blind, runs into problems with travel websites constantly. His JAWS screen reader cannot find appropriately-coded headings so he can skip to the part of the site he wants to read. And many images are missing ALT text, so he misses out information when a compelling image is simply labeled “IMAGE_042.jpg.”
Gabrielle has dyslexia. Many travel websites have lots of information crowded on the page and many have poor color contrast, which makes it very difficult for her to read. If there’s a choice of places to get her information, she will go to a site she knows is easier for her to read.
Chirag, who is deaf, wants to watch videos about a resort, but there are no captions provided on the videos embedded in their website. After some digging, he finds the videos on YouTube. Captions are auto-generated by YouTube, but they are so inaccurate that they are useless.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 is the gold standard for digital accessibility. Meeting the A or AA level of WCAG will not only create an experience that is functional for most users but will also mitigate the risk of being targeted with an accessibility lawsuit.
Want to Learn More?
Come back in a week for our next installment, “Getting There & Back Again: Air Travel for People with Disabilities.” In the meantime, you can access the resources from our free on-demand webinar:
Join Mitchell Evan, our in-house rock star on all things accessibility for the travel and hospitality industry, for a free on-demand webinar addressing all of the important digital accessibility regulations that affect the industry, and what companies can do to minimize legal risk and maximize the number of travelers they serve.