Your website is probably not as accessible as you think. Most websites are not. For travel consultants and agency owners, this simple fact means you may be missing out on potential clients who are currently unable to use your website.
It could also mean that you’re open to legal action if someone decides your site has failed them, especially if you also have a brick and mortar location. Although the Ninth Circuit has consistently found that online-only businesses are not covered by ADA’s website accessibility guidelines, states are free to apply the rules more broadly. And any business that has a storefront is wide open to a lawsuit if their website isn’t fully accessible.
Whether or not you’re concerned about the legal status of your site in terms of accessibility, there are other reasons to add accessibility features to your site.
“We should all be moving towards a more just world, and that includes travel,” said Denise Páne, CEO and founder of Access Design Studio, a website design company focused on creating accessible websites. “The reason I chose to do this is because I want to make sure everyone of all abilities can have these experiences that make life rich and resilient. And for a lot of people, that’s travelling.”
What does barrier-free actually mean?
“When people think of ADA, they think of the physical,” Páne said. “Digital accessibility is a completely different matter. About 25% of the population has a disability that is aided by visual accessibility…we’re talking people with ADHD, people with color blindness, people with dyslexia, people with autism.”
Even older adults with shaking hands can be helped by certain digital accessibility features, she added.
Surprised how wide the list is? Even something as seemingly simple as a contact form can pose a problem for a number of people.
For example, the text on many forms disappears as soon as you click in a text field. Not everyone will remember what belonged there.
“Someone with ADHD is like, what’s supposed to be in that area. I forgot. I’m distracted,” Páne explained. “And that also helps people with cognitive problems. It helps people with dyslexia.”
Websites with many moving parts, unprompted sounds, and flashing text can also be a problem for people with ADHD, autism, or epilepsy. The list, once you start thinking about it, is endless.
Common accessibility gaps
Two of the most overlooked website design elements related to accessibility are color contrast and alt text, pane.
A massive survey of a million home pages supports Páne’s claim. The number one mistake – at 83.9% – of homepages in 2022 was low-contrast text. Missing alt text came second, with 55.4% of homepages missing alt text on images.
Color contrast errors can be a problem for anyone who is visually impaired or color blind, as well as older adults who don’t see color contrast as clearly as they used to. With color contrast, there needs to be a clear definition between the text on the page and the background. This also applies to all graphics that contain text.
Color contrast can be technical, but at the very least you should avoid placing light text on a light background, dark text on a dark background, or combining colors that are known to be invisible to people with color blindness.
Alt text is needed to allow people with screen readers or text-to-speech software – used primarily by visually impaired and blind users – to “see” images on a page. Without alt text, the screen reader or software will simply say “image” or, even worse, read out the name of the file (e.g. 6853_lowres.jpg).
Alt text is also much easier to manage for non-technical individuals.
To serve accessibility purposes, alt text should accurately describe what is displayed on the screen.
For example, a photo of a family watching fireworks at Disney should not contain alt text that says “Family at Disneyworld.” Instead, the alt text should read more like “Family of four watches fireworks and laughs at Disneyworld’s Magic Kingdom.”
This allows people who cannot see the image clearly – or at all – to be included in the full web experience. You chose the photo for a specific reason. Don’t you want everyone to understand the message you’re trying to send?
Another aspect of accessibility that you can address yourself is content. Texts should be kept short. Use headings and subheadings to organize the text so screen readers can read the content in an organized way that makes sense to the listener.
If you are unsure whether your website is accessible or not, there are a number of free scanning programs you can try. Just google “scan website for accessibility” to get a list. (You’ll likely be met with a sales pitch afterwards, but just ignore them if you’re not interested in investing in a complete website makeover.) Many website design companies also offer a free consultation, where they will give you a Take a look at it for free on your site and let you know what it takes.
What is the ROI in Accessibility
According to the Web Accessibility Initiative, people with disabilities spend more than $200 billion annually. Part of it while traveling.
“As you know, nobody tolerates friction on a website anymore,” Páne said. “You’ll just go. So if you have someone with ADHD or epilepsy or a zillion other cognitive issues and they don’t find your site comfortable to use, they will just leave.”
By making your website even slightly more accessible, you open up your business to up to 25% more of the population.
Having a more accessible website also becomes part of your brand or your agency’s brand, Páne added.
“It becomes part of your marketing, part of who you are. You really let people know you care about their experience. And that’s what people want… you [people with disabilities] are extremely brand loyal. When they find someone who cares about them and their experience, they stay with them and tell others.”