How often do you think about travellers with disabilities at your hotel?
The reality is they should take up a lot of your consideration if you want your business to truly thrive. Around 15% of Americans and 20% of Australians have some form of disability, equating to almost 50 million people in the case of the US.
A survey found that 53% of adults with disabilities report staying in a hotel or motel within the past two years. Unfortunately nearly half of these travellers say they’ve encountered major accessibility barriers associated with their hotel stay.
Many of these barriers are physical challenges at your hotel, but accessibility limitations also include web accessibility, where travellers with disabilities cannot complete their research and booking online due to missing, incomplete, or incompatible information.
Guests with disabilities often need to travel with one or two companions so accommodating them and ensuring your hotel website is functional for their needs could have a positive impact on your revenue and reputation.
Here’s what web accessibility means and how you can make your website disability friendly.
What is web accessibility and who does it affect?
Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments – including hotel websites – for people who experience disabilities. It should be achieved equally through user experience (UX), design, front end web development and content.
There are two types of people who may be affected. Those who have a disability, but can use websites unassisted – and those who require assistance in the form of tools like screen readers, braille displays, or magnifiers.
Common disabilities include:
- Conditions associated with learning difficulties
- Blindness or vision impairment such as colour-blindness
- Motor control disorders
- Dyslexia or related conditions
Websites are governed by The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, which was released back in December 2008. The guidelines are a set of recommendations for making web content more accessible.
What key guidelines are outlined for a website to be deemed accessible?
There are four main requirements a website should meet to be considered accessible. A website must be:
This means information and the user interface must be presented to users in ways they can perceive. Put simply, nothing should be hidden from a user with a disability. They should have access to and be able to understand everything on a page.
Similarly users must be able to operate the interface, with no parts excluded for disabled users.
Users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface. The content or operation of the site cannot be beyond their interpretation.
This means the content can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. As technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible.
How can you make your hotel website more accessible?
There are many factors that need to be addressed when optimising your website for accessibility. Here are the main features you should be aware of.
Headings need to follow the correct structure and be well organised into main headers, subheaders etc. Headings should not be chosen simply for their visual appeal and should also use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to separate presentation from structure. This allows screen readers to accurately present the information on screen.
Images and alt-text
Alt-text needs to be provided for all images on all pages. This is especially important for features like infographics. Without this text screen readers won’t be able to adequately convey the required message to the user.
Simply providing a link and saying ‘click here’ isn’t good enough. More information needs to be provided to assistive technology. For example, instead of stating ‘click here to learn more about our company’ with ‘click here’ linked, use ‘To learn more about our company, read about us’ with ‘about us’ linked.
Every bracket in a form should have a clear descriptive label. Instead of ‘name’, stipulate if you need full name, or separate sections for first and last name. If certain fields are mandatory, they should be labelled as such and have alerts attached so a screen reader can alert the user that not everything has been completed.
Almost 10% of the US population is affected by red-green colour deficiency, so using these colours heavily to distinguish between parts of a page or form will create difficulty.
People with mobility disabilities may not be able to use a mouse or trackpad so your site must be functional via the keyboard alone, using tab or arrow keys. With this in mind, the tab and visual order of a page should match to make sure navigation is logical.
Videos should be implemented to only play on demand and dynamic content such as pop-ups, overlays, light boxes etc. should be set up with alerts, to avoid the risk of users not being aware they’ve occurred or they become trapped in these features. Options to make these accessible include ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) roles and alerts, as well as front-end development frameworks that specifically support accessibility.
An easy step for your hotel is to create your website using a website builder with accessible themes already in place, taking all the work out of your hands. You can watch a video about website builder technology, here.