While the hotel industry has largely worked at great effort and expense to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), website accessibility remains a challenge for hoteliers, as it can be difficult to determine what currently falls under the scope of the ADA’s website specifications.
It pays to be proactive, not reactive, in creating a website that is ADA compliant. While the majority of ADA cases are settled out of court, it isn’t uncommon for cases such as these to cost tens of thousands of dollars in addition to any legal fees. Also, as more consumers shop online, a hotel’s website’s accessibility is critical to creating a positive and accommodating guest experience.
These lawsuits stem from an interpretation of section 36.303 of the ADA Title III regulations, which states that all “public accommodation” shall provide access to services or other offerings, including websites. Common compliance requirements include providing tags for images, captions for videos, and compatibility with screen readers, though there are more to consider. The larger the website and the more often it is updated, the more difficult it can be to keep track of these factors and maintain compliance. Hotels with small websites should assess their vulnerabilities by educating themselves on the parameters of the ADA. Some aspects of this to consider include:
- Websites should be completely accessible using only a keyboard.
- Control flashing content—content should not flash more than three times per second, as it may trigger seizures in some users.
- Pay attention to the color contrast of your website, as colorblind users must also be accommodated.
- Prioritize text descriptions for images and subtitles for videos.
Because the scope of a website’s accessibility requirements under the ADA can be vast, it may be necessary to conduct significant, large-scale, manual audits on a regular basis. Keeping a record of the changes made along the way can be an effective way to show proof of compliance in the event an ADA lawsuit is filed against a hotel. Hotels are also encouraged to embrace transparency throughout this process, even if transparency means admitting they are not totally compliant.
It is part of the spirit of hospitality to accommodate the needs of all guests. Hoteliers must take action to make their websites ADA compliant in a manner that will both protect their businesses and improve the lives of all travelers.