No Claus for Concern. Accessibility will keep you on Santa’s nice list
When we think about hotels and accessibility, we often think about it from a physical point of view, about designated parking, wheelchair ramps, accessible toilets and lifts. We rarely think about the digital world and how ensuring your website is accessible is as important as any physical changes made within your property to ensure universal access for all.
Put simply, web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the web. This means ensuring they can understand, navigate and interact with your website whether their disability is physical, mental or situational. It’s probably best summed up by the inventor of the web himself, Sir Tim Berners-Lee:
“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
Web accessibility is not something new and guidelines have been in place for some time, driven by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG, which is produced by the World Wide Web Consortium.
Until recently, enforcement of these regulations was non-existent, until cases started being brought against a wide range of businesses in the USA who were in breach of the American Disabilities Act (ADA), which utilises the recommendations from WCAG as part of its compliancy best practices. The US government enforces ADA regulations on all government and state organisations, however businesses were being targeted for a lack of ADA compliance through civil cases from the general public. A large number of businesses, including hotels, found themselves in court for an array of compliancy issues relating to their online presence.
Closer to home, while not currently enforced, the EU Web Accessibility Directive set September 2018 as the date when EU member states needed to transpose this directive into their national laws. The aim from this directive is for all public sector websites and applications to implement and enforce accessibility standards, at the risk of fines and other legal penalties. This bears a lot of similarities to the US model and its prudent to assume that a similar level of litigation could be experienced within the EU on the back of this directive.
Boosting your website
Aside from the threat of legal action, applying accessibility guidelines to your website is also beneficial from a revenue point of view. First off, an accessible site can enhance your SEO and increase traffic as adherence to WCAG guidelines leads to better built websites that are easier to crawl and index. An accessible site can also decrease bounce rates as users can browse the site and find what they’re looking for without being impeded or frustrated.
An accessible site can boost brand value which is key as more and more consumers take a business’s core values into consideration when making purchases. As a hotel, it’s likely your core values include statements around being inclusive, connected, helpful and customer centric in which case online accessibility has to be part of that methodology.
Finally an accessible website can have a substantial bearing on your bottom line. Aside from the savings in operational cost by reducing calls, emails and potential litigation costs, there is a substantial market share of society with at least one disability that you can tap into with an accessible site. In a recent Nucleus Research report, researchers found that 2% of total eCommerce transactions are completed by people who are blind. If we take that number as potentially less than half the blind population, we get an idea of the market share that’s being overlooked by not having an accessible site.
How do you make a website accessible
For the most part, good practices in terms of how the website is developed, how the content is written and how images are managed will take care of most accessibility issues. Some of the key areas to look out for are:
- Ensure all images have descriptive alt tags which are read by screen readers, players and voiceover to describe elements on a web page.
- Use headings correctly to ensure your content is well organised and easy to interpret by screen readers.
- Choose colours carefully ensuring there is a sufficient contrast between foreground and background colours to ensure legibility for users with colour vision deficiencies.
Build with Accessibility in Mind
But there are still other factors that need to be considered. For a website to be fully accessible, it needs to be navigable via keyboard for users who are not able to use a mouse or trackpad. Dynamic content needs to considered to ensure its sufficiently accessible and does not trap a keyboard-only user within a page or piece of functionality.
At Avvio, we build all our new websites with accessibility in mind, from the initial flat visual designs, through to the development code, the application of online marketing and pre-live testing. We utilise Google Lighthouse as an audit tool for code based queries as well as conducting visual reviews to check for issues with layout and colour contrasts.
Using these best practices has resulted in our recent website for the Killarney Park Hotel scoring a perfect 100/100 for accessibility on desktop through Googles Lighthouse accessibility audit tool.
We will continue to keep improve our process and keep abreast of current accessibility regulations and improvements.