Welcome to the ADA Compliance series in which our expert shares advice with hoteliers striving to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is part 4 of the blog series.
ADA-related lawsuits for website accessibility have grown rapidly in recent years, affecting major hotels brands including Hilton, Marriott, and Choice Hotels. But it’s not just the global chains that are being targeted. Independent hotels are also being bombarded with their own compliance lawsuits, and some are being forced to pay damages in the tens of thousands of dollars.
To help navigate the tricky world of ADA compliance, this final post in our themed series offers an essential hoteliers’ checklist. For more help, you can also utilize our new ADA-compliant service.
Why should your website be ADA compliant? As covered in our previous post, the number of non-compliance lawsuits tripled year-over-year at the end of 2018, reaching over 2,250 cases. In 2019, that number looks set to increase once again. In many cases, these lawsuits are opportunistic in nature and catch hotels off guard.
Aside from the legal and financial ramifications, your hotel website should be ADA compliant for the simple reason that it’s the right thing to do. Anyone with disabilities should be able to enjoy an unhindered experience of your website. Easy navigation, intuitive design, and clear and accessible content are all essential elements that require careful consideration.
How can hotels achieve compliance? In many instances, ADA-related lawsuits can be prevented. It simply requires taking the necessary measures before and not after a complaint has been lodged and the legal wheels are in motion.
To be ADA compliant, websites need to fulfill technical regulations and meet certain content standards. These are laid out in detail by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
The official Website Accessibility checklist outlines all of the areas websites must cover. We recommend consulting this checklist in full to ensure your hotel website achieves compliance. In the meantime, we’ve compiled some of the most important points to consider.
Technical requirements checklist
A hotel website can achieve compliance through a range of technical components, including:
Provide text alternatives for non-text content
Non-text content includes things such as banners, sidebar images, footers, and images. Examples of non-text alternatives include large print, braille, speech, and symbols. As discussed in our previous post, it’s also important to label all images on your website with descriptive alt text.
Include substitutes for time-based media
Content is deemed “time-based media” when it’s:
audio and/or video combined with interaction.
A common example of time-based media on a hotel website would be a property tour video featuring a voice over. For hearing-impaired users, there would need to be an accompanying written text transcript to ensure they could understand the content.
Color contrast ratios
To help those with a visual impairment, text and background colors need to meet a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1. Colors such as white on grey, green on red, and red on blue are all examples of hard-to-see combinations. Use this resource to check the color contrast of your site and ensure it meets the necessary requirements.
In addition, information expressed purely through color also needs to be explicitly conveyed in text format. For instance, a lot of websites use red to indicate required fields on a booking form, which won’t be visible to anyone with a visual impairment.
Users must be able to navigate your entire website with just a keyboard. All elements that can be accessed via a mouse must also be accessible via a keyboard. In addition, users should be able to pause any moving sections on your website if they need more time.
Easy to navigate
Clear and consistent navigation is also critical to ensure your website is ADA compliant. To help users find content and locate where they are on your site, give each webpage a clear title so that its purpose is completely obvious.
The same goes for link text titles. Generic titles such as “Submit” or “Find Out More” won’t make sense to a visually impaired user. So if you include a link on your website that encourages users to visit your “Local Area” page, make the link text destination abundantly clear. Use “Learn more about our local area” rather than just “Learn more.”
Communication and content requirements
While hoteliers may be generally aware of ADA technical requirements, most are not adequately informed about how content is presented on their websites.
To enable individuals to decide if your property meets his or her needs, your hotel website must identify and describe all of the accessible areas of your property in sufficient detail.
Hotel operators are under the impression that room content is enough. However, that’s far from reality. We’re now seeing lawsuits related to lack of accessibility information related to common spaces, on-site amenities, and the pathways to and from these spaces throughout the hotel. For that reason, hotel websites need to include accessibility content for all areas of the property, and overkill has become a best practice.
Which website pages should contain information?
The following areas must all clearly include accessibility information:
- Accessibility Page (The most important to-do)
- Rooms / Room Types
- Special Offers that feature property amenities
- Amenity landing pages
- Meeting spaces
- Event spaces
- Fitness center
- Business center
- Restaurants / F&B
The booking process
Website accessibility also extends to the booking process. People with disabilities must be able to make reservations for accessible guest rooms during the same hours and in the same way that other people are able to make reservations.
- In person
- Third parties
Another consideration is whether someone who is mobility-impaired can book a room online in the same manner as anyone else who doesn’t need an accessible room. In other words, the site must identify amenities and accommodations designed for them and allow them to reserve that room during the booking process.
What you can do to protect yourself
Follow the checklists above and then take it a step further by conducting a quarterly audit. As thought leaders in the hospitality industry, we’re here to help hoteliers understand what ADA compliance means from a technical and content perspective.
Travel Tripper and Pegasus have provided ADA audits and monitoring services to dozens of hotels, servicing a wide range of properties, including Marriott, Equinox, Westin, Renaissance, Sheraton, and Le Méridien.
Mitigate the risk today by learning the critical components of an ADA-compliant website and start making your hotel website accessible to individuals with disabilities. Be proactive. Don’t wait for that lawsuit notice to hit your desk. We’re here to help and support you. Schedule a consultation with our experts today to protect your property!
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