Imagine a guest with a physical disability arriving at your hotel in a wheelchair, only to find that your building doesn’t have a wheelchair ramp or handicap push buttons that open the doors automatically. The same feeling of exclusion happens when someone with a disability visits your website and finds that they can’t use it because it isn’t optimized for accessibility.
Just as your establishment must accommodate a guest with reduced physical mobility, you also need to make sure that people with disabilities can access the content on your website. With the recent statement by the Department of Justice saying that web accessibility must be a priority for all public businesses, the urgent need for web accessibility is apparent. It’s clear that this is now a business essential, rather than a “nice to have” option.
More than that, for hotels and lodging, great web accessibility is the beginning of a great guest experience for people with disabilities. An accessible website allows hotels to drive more bookings and delight customers with an excellent guest experience while helping avoid lawsuits in an industry that is one of the top three most targeted for lawsuits involving lack of website accessibility. Plus, U.S. companies that implement web accessibility can get up to $5,000 in tax credits per Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code, Section 44.
What is Web Accessibility?
At its core, web accessibility is about making the world a more inclusive place. It refers to the practice of ensuring that people with disabilities can use the internet just as readily as those who are fully able.
When thinking of accessibility, many people think only about accommodations for someone who is blind, deaf, or uses a wheelchair for mobility. However, web accessibility also helps countless others who have many common impairments, including:
- ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning disabilities
- Color blindness
- Loss of motor skills
- Short-term memory loss
- Low vision
- Changing abilities due to aging
To overcome these barriers to interaction, websites need to be developed and designed in accordance with specific guidelines. They also need to be compatible with assistive devices used by potential visitors, such as braille displays, screen readers, head wands, mouth sticks, or voice recognition software.
The Importance for Hotels and Lodging
Your website is not only the primary face that your business presents to the world, it’s also the home of the majority of the interactions that a customer will have with your hotel before they decide to make a reservation, as well as between making the reservation and eventually stepping through your door.
Yet, some 71% of all websites are inaccessible to those with disabilities, even though 61 million U.S. adults (18% of the population) having a disability or condition that affects their ability to navigate online. If your website is one of those, that means one in four potential guests cannot properly view photos of your hotel, read testimonials, browse the rooms, learn about the amenities, or interact with your booking engine.
This huge disconnect has serious business implications for hotels and lodging—in fact, for the entire travel industry as a whole. As digital trends and consumer behavior continue to evolve, current statistics suggest that more than 90% of travelers do their research online, and 82% end up completing their bookings online. An inaccessible website is dramatically costing your hotel by excluding these would-be travelers—losing countless bookings and revenue in the process.
So why not flip the switch and prioritize web accessibility, in order to realize a significant boost to your bottom line? Optimizing your website for accessibility helps your business to:
- Increase market share by 25%
- Boost SEO efforts and conversion rates
- Dramatically increase bookings
- Build a strong and inclusive brand
- Enhance customer loyalty
- Create a better user experience for all
While the importance of web accessibility is quite clear, how to go about making sure your website is compliant isn’t so obvious. There are very specific guidelines that must be followed, and the solutions for every website are unique, so you’ll need the advice of an accessibility expert.
Issues that have to be addressed include things like poor color contrast, lack of text alternatives (“alt text”) on images, no captions on videos, inaccessible online forms, mouse-only navigation, use of color alone to give information, and much more.
What About Accessibility Toolbars (aka Overlays)?
Toolbars use AI (Artificial Intelligence), which can only address 30% of accessibility issues. Many companies install these toolbars and then think their websites are accessible… until they get sued. More than 250 lawsuits were filed in 2020 against companies using toolbars or overlays as an accessibility solution for their websites according to a report from Usable. Not only can toolbars not do the job of a real person, but some of these toolbars actually make it worse for people with disabilities. In order to be confident that you’ve made your website accessible, it needs to be done by a certified accessibility expert.
Deliver an Excellent Guest Experience
Making your website accessible in order to comply with official guidelines is only part of the benefit of accessibility. Web accessibility allows hotels to shore up their bottom line and deliver an excellent guest experience from start to finish.
Denise Páne is the CEO & Founder of Access Design Studio, the leading expert in accessible websites for the hospitality industry, WCAG 2.1 AA Certified, and Online ADA Accredited. Visit accessdesignstudio.com to request a free video review of your website’s accessibility issues.