In 2019, the sector with the largest month-to-month increase in website ADA-related litigation was hotels, going from 23 lawsuits in July to 42 in August 2018 alone. The bulk of lawsuits were filed against small hotels and franchises of larger chains, often because they did not allow individuals with a disability to reserve accessible rooms through their online reservation system.
What Makes Hotel Booking Sites So Different Than Other Websites?
As the hotel industry continues to neglect the importance of website ADA compliance, new or existing customers with disabilities will either be unable, or have difficulty, making online reservations. The reason for this is often that the booking systems are not built to be accessible with assistive technologies such as screen readers and keyboard navigation tools. Without this, an individual with a disability who requires assistive tools is unable to reserve a room online.
Unfortunately, accessibility is not commonly listed as an amenity when searching for a hotel room online. Users can choose from ocean or non-ocean view or even the number of occupants in a room, however, accessibility features such as walk-in tubs, first floor rooms with wider doorways and other features are often not available items to search for across sites. Therefore, even if a site has been designed to conform to WCAG 2.1 AA standards, it can still fail conformance because of the unique nature of what hotel websites offer.
The hospitality industry is unique when it comes to its digital presence. Comparatively, an online newspaper has to ensure their content is readable, and a financial institution must make sure that clients can access their content and account information. Hotels, motels, and resorts alike have to make sure that their site content is not only accessible, but include accessible information about their disability-friendly rooms and amenities.
Making Your Booking Site Accessible To All
So, you’re probably asking yourself at this point: what should hotels do to ensure their websites conform to WCAG 2.1 AA standards? Accessibility does not happen overnight. It must be purposefully planned, built, and tested.
When taking into consideration your hotel website, you should look at your website from the same perspective as your facility. The same way your facility has designed handicap parking, automatic doors, elevators to all floor levels, and wider entryways for wheelchair accessibility — your website should be no different. A hotel booking website must be enabled to be read and navigated by a wide array of assistive technologies such as screen readers.
Since there are many nuances of website accessibility it’s best to find a company that understands ADA compliance and WCAG 2.1 AA standards. While there are many accessibility plugins available, there is no substitute for manually scanning and reporting on site issues beyond checking off boxes on a list. Your business needs a company that understands that your goal, and the goal of your customers (whomever they may be) is the same: a great and fair experience when booking and an enjoyable stay at your property.
Sr. QA & Certified Accessibility Analyst
ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings