Most people can experience the world through the internet. Travel information and choices to make those travel arrangements are at our fingertips. Now imagine a world where you could not easily access the internet to search for hotels and airlines that provide accommodations and accessibility for your specific needs? For most of us, this is not something we need to consider but, for the disabled, its a daily challenge.
To understand their frustrations in navigating a site is to understand what it means to make your hotel website ADA compliant. You need to view it from their perspective. That is, putting yourself in the place of a disabled person will better help you understand what it means in terms of making your website accessible.
There are four major categories of disability types: Visual, Hearing, Motor and Cognitive. For each disability category there are certain types of adaptations in the design of web content. Some of these can be helpful to most everyone, like well-organized content or clear navigation.
With the laws of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA, the blind have gone from braille or audio tapes to screen reading software; the deaf have gone from using a stick to type commands to special keyboards or eye-tracking software. In all cases, the changes provided more freedom and independence to the disabled.
Despite the possibilities offered by these technological advances, there are still sites that have not adapted basic principles that would allow the disabled to access, not only text, but also graphics.
What are the guidelines for an ADA compliant website?
The first thing you should understand is that there is no law regarding ADA compliance and your website, only suggested guidelines from the Worldwide Web Consortium or W3C, the governing body of the web.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version 2.0 are based on four principles spelled out in the acronym, POUR.
- Perceivable: As a medium of communication, the internet provides access to knowledge and, as far as web accessibility is concerned, this means the brain needs to process web content through the senses (vision, hearing, touch) either through the browser or through assistive technologies (e.g. screen readers, screen enlargers, etc.).
- Operable: Some people use adaptive or alternative devices that accommodate their disabilities. In terms of web accessibility, this means users can interact with all controls and interactive elements using either the keyboard, or an assistive device.
- Understandable: Language and function is vital in web accessibility. This means content is clear and limits any confusion or ambiguity.
- Robust: For web accessibility, this means a wide range of technologies (including old and new user agents and assistive technologies) can access the content.
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the subsequent DOJ publication of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design requires businesses, including hotels, to make accessibility accommodations that enable the disabled public to access the same services as those who are not disabled and this would include hotel websites. However, it does not specifically address websites, and this would include hotel websites. These rulings can be confusing in terms of how they apply to website accessibility because they are only suggested guidelines. Regardless, this has not stopped an onslaught of lawsuits for failure to comply with WCAG guidelines as a basis to claims.
Then there is the Section 508 Standards under the 1973 Rehabilitation Act that requires government agencies to make information and communication, including websites, accessible to people with disabilities whether they are government employees or members of the public. Section 508 was most recently updated to incorporate WCAG guidelines and although hotels may have government travelers, they are not government agencies.
How should hoteliers achieve website ADA compliance?
First and foremost, you need to understand and comply with WCAG guidelines and make it part of best practices. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an accessibility checklist that can help you check your website for accessibility.
- Provide text alternatives or ALT Tags to graphics, animations and videos. Consider that if you disable the presentation, the web content should still effectively communicate the message.
- Ensure text labels are used for all buttons and calls to action.
- Provide text descriptions to all internal and external links.
- Ensure keyboard accessibility. Website should be enabled for navigation by screen readers or alternative keyboard devices so that users can search, find, navigate through and interact with web content. Consider how you would get to content if you could not use a mouse.
- Allow for longer time to complete a task on the website. Consider slower muscle movements by a person with a motor disability or slower mental processes by a person with a cognitive disability.
- Pop-ups and image maps are not used on websites.
- Website contains easily resizable text.
- Adhere to ADA compliance at the property itself and create a Website Accessibility Statement page, an Accessible Amenities & Services landing page as well as an Accessible Rooms landing page.
Remember, the above are only guidelines and, as mentioned previously in this article, there are no laws governing ADA compliance and websites. Still, you should keep in mind that 20% of the population has some form of disability and spend $19 billion on travel. In addition, people with disabilities usually travel with a companion, potentially increasing spending to $40 billion. Hoteliers would be smart to include this group of website visitors by adhering to the WCAG guidelines.
Please contact us for a complimentary, no obligation ADA website audit. At the very least, you will understand what your website exposure is and the corrective action you will need to undertake.
About Lodging Interactive
Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas.
CoMMingle has established itself as the largest provider of reputation management services for the hospitality industry, handling over 200,000 guest review responses. The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.
Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weeklys Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.
Lodging Interactive is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the companys president, DJ Vallauri, currently serves on the Board of Directors of HSMAIs New York Chapter and is a Forbes.com Agency Council contributor. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 877-291-4411 or visit the companys website.
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