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Web Accessibility in the Hospitality Industry

Kim Phillips 10/18/12

Definition of Hospitality Industry

The hospitality industry is a broad category of fields within the service industry that includes lodging, restaurants, theme parks, transportation, cruise lines, and additional fields within the tourism industry. The hospitality industry is a several billion dollar industry.

Physical/Architectural Accessibility vs. Web Accessibility

When we talk about accessibility in the hospitality industry, the first thought that comes to mind has to do with ensuring that hotels, cruise liners, theme parks, and air planes accommodate people with disabilities and conform with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as amended. Some examples include ramps, accessible doors, and availability of TTYs, among others.

Very seldom do we turn our attention to web accessibility. All of the fields within the hospitality industry have public facing websites, online reservation systems and communication facilities. By ignoring these areas, the industry is not only ignoring the billions of discretionary income in the hands of People with Disabilities but is also putting itself at risk of being involved in the increasing number of lawsuits against inaccessible websites. Just to mention a couple of recent ones:

  • Cari Shields, et al v. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts – Class Action (Current)
  • In 2010, Hilton Worldwide, Inc. entered into an ADA settlement ruling with the Department of Justice agreeing to improve accessibility to its online reservation systems. In addition, Hilton agreed to ensure that all of its websites would comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0, Level A success criteria.
  • In 2003, the New York Attorney General, determined that Priceline.com and Ramada.com had to make that their respective websites accessible to the blind and low vision customers by complying with certain areas of the Section 508 standards of the Rehabilitation Act.

What Can the Industry Do?

Per the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) definition, accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web. Web accessibility also benefits others, including older people with changing abilities due to aging.

At SSB BART Group we have worked with a few clients in the hospitality industry and recommend they rollout accessibility using the following six stage process:

  • Policy Development
  • Standards Development
  • Implementation Plan Development
  • Training Development
  • Pilot Implementation
  • Full Deployment

Conclusion

The cost of implementing web accessibility is minimal compared to the one an organization can face by not addressing it. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.

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