Hotel Website ADA Compliance

 In Hotel Marketing, Website Design

In recent years, Hotel Website ADA Compliance has been a topic on the rise. This buzz has been the effect of a calling for equality and inclusiveness for those suffering from disabilities.

This has resulted in numerous lawsuits being carried out to exploit many of the hotels that remain non compliant.

Many around the hotel industry have been affected after being singled out for their failure to comply with ADA (American with Disabilities Act) standards.

By the end of 2017, there were over 800 reported cases of ADA related lawsuits, with that number being almost doubled by the first half of 2018.

With research from UsableNet showing that 2018 finished with over 2200 ADA cases going to court. A 181% increase from the previous year. All stemming from the first official case which went to court June 12th, 2017.

The Rise in ADA Compliance Issues for Hotels

Since 2013, records have shown steady growth in demand for ADA compliance all across the board.

By simply tracking the number of ADA lawsuits which have been to court in the past 5 years, we get a solid idea as to the rise in demand for ADA compliance.

The First Website Compliance Case to go to Court

Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc, was the first website accessibility case to go to court.

The plaintiff Juan Carlos Gil was registered as legally blind with cerebral palsy, he thus relied on assistive technology to find his way around the internet.

With the use of JAWS (Jobs Access With Speech), a popular piece of assistive technology, he would have expected to be able to access all the relevant information he needed to fill out a medical prescription.

Unfortunately, he was unable to do this, in fact, the majority of Winn-Dixie’s website pages showed very limited access, with some pages not functioning at all.

Thus prompting Juan Carlos Gil to take them to court with the judge’s ruling forcing Winn-Dixie to make significant changes to their website and to pay $100,000 in legal fees to the plaintiff.

Worth noting is also the fact that when a representative of Winn-Dixie spoke on behalf of the company, he made a reference to their being a budget of $250,000 to be used to ensure website compliance.

Since then we have seen a number of cases brought against other establishments for similar situations but not many industries have been affected in quite the same way as the hospitality industry.

What is Website ADA Compliance?

The ADA Compliance act was first declared on July 26th, 1991, written and signed by President George H.W. Bush.

It was designed to allow those with disabilities to have full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services of all public accommodations.

However, it only became law in July of 2010. By this time it was the ADA Compliance Title III for Public Accommodation.

With this, it brought a ton of confusion to those who occupy businesses in a public setting due to the lack of clarity delivered by the Department of Justice.

Even more confusing was how this applied to the websites of these businesses.

For a while, the impact of not being compliant had been much clearer than the compliance criteria.

It was surprising that even after several amendments in a much more online-oriented world, the Department of Justice had yet to directly address website requirements.

But now, there has been a series of guidelines put into place to guide persons on how to reach successful levels of compliance.

How can a website be a place of accommodation?

On July 18th, 2018, a criterion-setting decision was made. It revealed some very important facts about the way websites are being viewed under Title III of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

A great example of this ruling in play would be Dennis Haynes v. Dunkin Donuts LLC. Where the defendant Dunkin Donuts heavily disagreed with the notion that their website was a place of public accommodation even tho conceding that it’s physical locations were indeed covered by the ADA.

They argued that their website was neither a place of public accommodation nor goods, service or facility, therefore, it should not be covered by the act.

The 11th circuit disagreed, they ruled in favor of the plaintiff, stating that a website providing information about the accommodations of a public place of accommodation covered by the ADA act, or information about goods and services is a service that facilitates the use of public accommodation.

Compliance Criteria

Compliance simply demands that your website has been designed to accommodate those who may have mobile, visual or hearing disabilities.

The end result is to ensure that all content is user-friendly to all, regardless of any limitations physical in nature.

Therefore, to be compliant your website must follow all guidelines put in place, this ensures that it is indeed of equal access and enjoyment to those who may suffer from disabilities.

Guidance

The standards for ADA website compliance have been set by the World Wide Web Consortium. They are an international group tasked with developing protocols and standards which are aimed at ensuring the long term growth of the internet.

These standards today are known as WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guide).

It follows the previous version WCAG 2.0, which was released in December 2008. It was designed to be used as guidelines for making web content accessible to persons with disabilities.

These levels of accessibility demands had covered a range of disabilities such as auditory, cognitive, physical, neurological, language, visual and learning.

But in June 2018, WCAG 2.1 was introduced, the intention of the update was to cover a wider range of disabilities as well as the rapid shift in technology.

Compliance Levels

Unique to WCAG is the fact that while most standards only allow for 1 level of compliance, it carries 3 levels of compliance, A, AA, AAA.

●      Levels A is the baseline level of conformity, it establishes and addresses core accessibility issues, but still isn’t the preferred standard and could still lead to prosecution.

●      Level AA involves additional success criteria and is the baseline compliance level which is sufficient for hotel websites to be ahead of legal requirements.

●      Level AAA is the highest possible standard, meaning all 63 success criteria have been met. This is the highest standard and ensures that your website is covered from any possible ADA related lawsuits.

Principles and Guidelines

Under WCAG 2.0 are 4 principles and 12 guidelines.

Principles

The principles of accessibility can be translated as testable statements that determine if a website complies to ADA standards. These 4 principles are as follows:

●      Perceivable: The website must be visible to a user’s senses. For instance, providing alternatives to text such as Braille, sign language and/or audio assistance. As well as providing alternatives to time-based media.

●      Robust: Assistive technologies of a wide variety should be compatible with content and code on your website. Technologies such as screen enlargement applications and screen readers should all be accounted for in your preparations.

●      Operable: The user must be able to browse the website using common means such as operating a keyboard. Also, being able to pause specific sections for further reading even if they are time-based.

●      Understandable: Users must be able to clearly interpret any piece of information on your website, information must be displayed in a predictable and consistent manner.

Guidelines

Guidelines should be looked at as goals, we think that once we achieve these goals we achieve compliance. Unlike principles, guidelines are not testable but offer a framework for which inclusiveness becomes possible.

For example, providing captions for all live real-world content, providing alternatives for time-based media, making all functionality controllable by keyboard and providing users with enough time to read and use content are all guidelines given in the official document released by the W3C, named Web Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.

The Face of Compliance

Compliance shows it’s true colors when looked at under two lenses. Firstly, from a technical perspective and secondly, in the content used on your website.

The Technicality of Compliance

Even though we gave some insight into the technical side of compliance, we want to express it a bit more detail.

Mentioned earlier was the fact that persons who rely on assistive tools need to be able to browse freely, therefore your code must be able to support these tools.

Tools such as:

●      Voice-to-text typing
●      Oversized mouse and keyboard
●      Eye-tracking computer software
●      Screen readers

But these are not the only technical aspects involved in compliance, attention must also be given to matters such as ensuring all video content has closed caption options, all text has minimal formatting as well as content being available in HTML text-based format to ensure screen readers can easily utilize content.

ADA Compliant Content

When working to achieve Hotel Website ADA Compliance in the form of content, the frame of mind needed to achieve that goal should come from the perspective viewpoint of, “What information do I need to include within my content to ensure no one can claim that they were surprised by any physical barriers on the property.”

As well as, “How do I ensure that my content can be easily found, clearly understood and usable by all.”

The primary principle is based on the need to provide extensive information relevant to the physical, on property experience of the disabled user, and having that information accessible to them before they arrive.

Think about what physical obstructions may be within their way, what is the journey like between their room and the most important parts of your property.

Important information such as the types of rooms and shower accessibility are crucial pieces of the puzzle which should never be left out.

Am I required by Law to be ADA Compliant?

Legal risks have certainly increased over past years and smart business owners, especially those who conduct global business have implemented accessibility programs to not only mitigate risk but to help protect assets and their reputation.

In the United States, however, it is not required by law to be ADA compliant, unlike in Norway, where it is now illegal for commercial websites to fail to provide equal access, with government fines imposed on those who fail to comply.

A Benefit to all Users

On many different occasions, we have found situations where numerous innovations and initiatives originally planned to make life easier for the disabled, have in turn made life easier for the average citizen.

Website accessibility is certainly one of those instances.

These guidelines have made life easier especially for those who may be older users due to their changing abilities but also from a very general standpoint.

For instance, ensuring there are text-based alternatives to audio or visual content, helps when someone in a noisy environment, allowing them to easily retain information.

Or, how restrictions on flashy animations which can lead to potential seizures are also beneficial to the average user due to its ability to be generally annoying.

Therefore, not only does ADA Compliance keep you protected from any possible related lawsuit but it also enhances the experience of the majority of persons who uses your website’s content.

Tips to Help Guarantee Compliance

●      Hire a Compliance Vendor
●      How Deep is your Team’s Understanding of  WCAG 2.1

Hire A Compliance Vendor

A trusted compliance vendor can eradicate all the fear of not being compliant. Keeping in mind that if even one page has not been updated then your entire website isn’t compliant, which leaves you open to a lawsuit.

With frequent audits and consistent monitoring as an option, you can rest knowing that you are covered.

Hire a Team Experienced in Working with the WCAG 2.1 Guidelines

It is usually worth going beyond your current I.T. provider, especially if they have never worked on such projects. If you are going to hire a professional compliance vendor, in order to get the most out of the team, the best thing to do would be to hire an I.T. team which already has experience with the WCAG 2.1.

Recommended Actions

Compliance is not an issue which should be overlooked. Even though it can be costly, the cost of compliance is a lot less than the cost of negligence.

We recommend the next step to be finding a partner to work with who will lead you to success.

We have compiled a list of the top vendors on the market.

Siteimprove

Regarded the most popular of the accessibility vendors. Cloud-based data enable you to easily tackle the most challenging of compliance issues. Overall enhancing website content, driving search engine traffic, assisting in technical compliance while measuring website performance and ROI on one single platform.

Siteimprove has a great user interface, making it easily accessible and understandable to content editors and other team members even if their work doesn’t involve code.

Fixing important details such as broken links, alt text on images and many other problems related to SEO and content compliance along with all technical issues related to compliance as well.

Monsido

Monsido’s software specializes in scanning your website’s pages and content frequently, to identify any possible errors and opportunities for optimization, in addition to its ability to provide top-notch ADA accessibility services.

Audioeye

Software developed with the ability to deliver immediate, compliance impacting results. Regardless of if your issues are ADA or OCR-related violations, they deliver on your most urgent of needs and enhance inclusivity through accessibility. Meanwhile, offering tools for in-house management of accessibility compliance or custom integration solutions for integration into third-party platforms.

Conclusion

Compliance is a process. Trusted partners can take you from non-compliance to the safe zone, quickly and effectively by using proven processes.

The longer your website is out of compliance, the higher the stakes are, especially when it comes to those with dubious intentions.

So find a partner and begin working towards compliance today.

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