Vizergy’s Director of Business Development, Hope Waggett, CHDM, weighs in on the hot topic of ADA compliance for hotel websites:
Allow me to begin by stating that I am not qualified to offer legal advice on any topic, particularly in the area of discrimination and accessibility. This information is based on experience with real-world lodging operators trying their best to serve every guest they can connect with. That is what makes ADA compliance so important to hoteliers. It’s not about avoiding legal complaints, but how important it is to treat every possible guest with respect and to offer the hospitality travelers expect from their host.
Let’s get familiar with the standards. In December of 2008, WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) were published to provide a single shared standard to serve the disabled accessing digital content. These standards were updated and WCAG 2.1 was published in June of 2018. The guidelines are organized around 4 main themes: items that are perceivable (seen and heard), operable (actions to take), understandable (clearly expressed) and robust (containing meaningful information).
Sounds like a good process, right? Unpacking how a hotelier can review their own accessibility and serve their guests better is challenging. In the writer’s experience, there are 3 main areas with which to concern yourself.
Be aware of the unique needs of your guests as they experience their stay at your property. Make needed changes, acquire specialized equipment and provide everything your guest needs for a comfortable stay. Consider that the accommodations you have made for your valued guests must also be shared with potential guests through your website content. Make sure you have detailed descriptions of the overall property accessibility and describe the areas and specialized services available. Add a page to your website dedicated to your guests who require assistance. Let them know you want to accommodate their needs and provide a direct way to contact you if they have problems finding the information they need.
Allow for online booking of ADA rooms.
Many lodging websites simply state they have accessible rooms available, but guests now demand the opportunity to select a room specific to their needs. Make sure potential guests can find clear descriptions of what makes a room accessible, not just for those with mobility issues, but for the hearing and sight-impaired as well. Dedicate a room type and allow your guests to specifically book the accommodation that suits them best.
Make sure your site performs well with screen reader technology.
Ensure that your website is developed with ADA elements in the code to serve those using assistive technologies. This includes actions like tab scrolling through your website pages, having labels on buttons and forms, and adding alt tag descriptions to your imagery.
So, what are the next steps and solutions for a lodging operator just trying to provide a positive experience for their guests?
#1– If your website is more than 2-years old, get a new website from an experienced provider with ADA best practice standards in place. Older websites did not include the infrastructure needed to address accessibility features that didn’t even exist at the time.
#2– Seek out a trusted platform or service to scan your website for issues and document the results. Once all items have been evaluated and addressed, scan and document again. These provide evidence of your desire to be compliant and serve all your guests equally.
#3– Schedule regular scans to identify new issues and cross-check for new changes to WCAG guidelines. For some properties, once each quarter will be sufficient. For others, scans should be performed and the results documented on a monthly basis. The guidelines change frequently and without notice. New assistive technologies are continually being developed. Website ADA is here to stay, so this is not a set-it-and-forget-it topic.
All Vizergy websites are built to ADA standards. To ensure constant compliance and optimal website performance, Vizergy created a tool that quickly analyzes websites for any performance or accessibility issues. Built directly into their proprietary Content Management System (CMS), the Website Performance Analysis identifies issues and provides exact locations and descriptions of issues for easy resolution.
In closing, travel and hospitality is one of the things that makes life full and joyous. The hospitality industry is always striving to provide the best possible experience for their guests. Do not allow legal notices and the fear of lawsuits to distract you from the real reason for these guidelines. Your guests are the reason and that’s the essence of true hospitality.
About Vizergy® Digital Marketing:
Vizergy serves the world’s hospitality industry with conversion optimized website design and fiercely competitive tools to maximize revenue. Our formula for success includes cutting-edge technologies, proven digital marketing programs and the best professionals in the industry. At Vizergy, hospitality marketing is not only our mission, it’s our sole focus.
For more than 20 years, Vizergy has relentlessly developed and deployed the best marketing technologies and talent to serve thousands of hospitality clients with excellence. The company deploys complete travel life-cycle marketing solutions from responsive website design and development, to proven award–winning digital marketing programs, reservation solutions, media planning and deployment. Vizergy’s platform has long been touted as the #1 digital marketing system for hospitality clients, easy to deploy, turnkey and SMART, empowering clients to win in today’s complex and competitive hospitality industry.
For more information, please visit www.vizergy.com.