ADA compliance may be a known requirement throughout the physical structure of your hotel, but what about the digital one? ADA-compliant websites are designed so that they can be reasonably accessed and used by those who have disabilities, such as being blind. Without ADA compliance, your hotel may not only be violating the Americans With Disabilities Act, but may also be losing some potential customers.
What are ADA-compliant websites?
An ADA-compliant website is a website that is considered to be designed to be reasonably accessible to those who have disabilities, in particular, those who may have difficulty hearing or seeing. There are benefits to ADA compliance for any website owner, but hotels and other businesses may have a need to be ADA compliant to meet regulatory standards. In its simplest terms, an ADA-compliant website should be able to be browsed and understood by those who may not be able to hear or see. Naturally, a website cannot compensate for all forms of disability. In practice, ADA-compliant websites conform to the current well-defined web standards of accessibility, though they all share the aspirational goal of making the entire site accessible to everyone.
Is your hotel required by law to have an ADA-compliant website?
Whether or not your hotel is required to have an ADA-compliant website is based on two things: the size of your business and the communication process of your business. In general, most disability and discrimination rules do not apply to organizations that have 15 or fewer employees. These organizations are classed as small businesses. Most hotels will have well over 15 employees; the only exception are small, family-owned bed and breakfasts or motels.
In the likely scenario that you have more than 15 employees, however, you still may not need an ADA-compliant website—if there are other forms of communication that a disabled individual can use to contact your hotel. ADA compliance merely states that businesses need to have a method of communication that is accessible to those who are disabled. Without a website, this could mean having a TTY line for the deaf, or phone access for the blind. Thus, hotels may not need to have ADA-compliant websites if they already have achieved compliance in other areas.
Why should my hotel have an ADA-compliant website?
Even if your hotel isn’t required by law to have an ADA-compliant website, there are some major benefits to achieving ADA compliance regardless:
Making it easier for disabled individuals to book rooms within your hotel. Today, one in five Americans has some form of disability. If your hotel’s communication systems aren’t properly setup to support them, they will need to find alternate avenues to book at your hotel—or they may book at a different hotel entirely.
Protecting yourself against potential lawsuits. Even if you aren’t certain you need an ADA-compliant website, it’s often better to be sure. ADA litigation can be incredibly costly, and there’s no reason to invite complications that don’t have to exist. Remember: even if you are in the right, it’s still possible to levy a lawsuit against you, which can be time-consuming and expensive to fight.
Preparing yourself for growth in the future. Whether you have a small bed and breakfast that has less than 15 employees, or you already maintain a toll-free line for guests with disabilities, your situation could change. By creating an ADA-compliant website, you can prepare yourself for future growth or changes to your communications structure.
Leveraging the easiest and most effective path towards ADA compliance. Even if you aren’t required to have an ADA-compliant website, you are required to have ADA-compliant method of communication. A website is one of the easiest ways to communicate with guests who are disabled, as opposed to specialized toll-free services and TTY.
And of course, there is the simplest reason: it’s the right thing for businesses to do. Plus, it’s not expensive or difficult. Achieving ADA compliance really means simply adhering to a set of web standards, which are not costly to implement. Therefore, ADA compliance does not cost the organization a significant amount of money, and it wards off some substantial issues that could come up in the future.
How can you make your website ADA compliant?
In general, making a website ADA compliant means ensuring that the website’s content can be accessed in different ways, in particular via screen readers, devices that translate websites into speech and braille. For screen readers to be effective, websites need to present all information in a logical and easy-to-understand way, without losing any content in translation. Your website can be seen as ADA compliant if:
All visual media has a text-based analog. Images should have “alt” text describing their content. Videos should also be connected to appropriately descriptive text. This allows screen reader software to properly describe the image on the website.
Documents are available in HTML text-based formats. Documents should not be posted as either images or PDFs, because a screen reader is not going to be able to translate this for an individual who is blind.
There are no necessary components that rely on seeing or hearing. Websites shouldn’t rely upon the customer having to read an image or listen to an audio file in order to get information or navigate the site.
Text has minimal formatting. Not everyone who is disabled is fully blind. Those who have difficulty seeing may be unable to read particularly small text or colored text on colored backgrounds. It’s better to stick to a large, common font, with black text on white.
Audio signals are displayed visually. If there is an important audio signal (such as an error sound), it should also be represented visually by an alert. Otherwise, individuals who are hard of hearing or who are deaf may not realize that there even is an error.
Most websites will be able to achieve ADA compliance fairly easily. Full ADA compliance is not required by law for a hotel; for instance, though the hotel may need to make it easy for those who are blind or deaf to book a hotel room, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the website’s promotional videos need to be ADA compliant. Nevertheless, the more ADA compliant a website is, the better the experience will be for the user.
Promoting your ADA rooms on your website
In addition to making sure that your website is ADA compliant, you can also use your website as a method of promoting your ADA-compliant rooms. By providing better service to your customers with disabilities, you have the opportunity to increase your booking rates and guest satisfaction. Consider promoting the following on your website:
- Available ADA rooms. A list of accommodations that are prepared for those with disabilities will make it easier for them to find the appropriate rooms to book. It’s important that these rooms not be double-booked, as those who are booking these rooms usually cannot accept a replacement.
- ADA services. Accessibility information, TTY reservations, and other services that are designed to aid those with disabilities should be featured in a prominent area on your website.
- ADA amenities. This can include everything from the ADA modifications made to common areas (such as gyms and swimming pools) to attractions and events that are ideal for guests who have disabilities.
Though you may not require an ADA-compliant website—or you may already have a partially ADA-compliant website—ADA compliance is both beneficial to your guests and to your own profitability. By ensuring an ADA compliant atmosphere, you can better serve your guests and you can insure your hotel from future regulatory and legal issues.
Travel Tripper can work with you to ensure your hotel website conforms to standards of ADA compliance. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or request more information here.