Website ADA Compliance for Hotels

If you own or manage a hotel, you know a part of ADA compliance is having accessible rooms. It also means having an ADA-compliant website. Can disabled users navigate your hotel website and book a room? If the answer is no or you’re not sure, you need to make your website ADA compliant.

What follows is more information on making your hotel’s website ADA compliant, the importance of running a WCAG audit to do that, and the benefits of opening your doors to all guests. 

The Need for ADA Website Compliance

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability. It also gives disabled Americans the right to equal access to public entities like hotels.

At the time, the right to enjoy a hotel stay was interpreted to mean a disabled person could choose a hotel without worrying about physical barriers. Back then, the Internet was basic at best. Booking a room meant making a phone call.

Today, millions of people reserve their hotel rooms online. Approximately 25% or 61 million of them are disabled. And that number will keep rising as our population ages. If they can’t book a room, that hotel website is not ADA compliant. The courts have consistently sided with disabled users who sue hotels for non-compliance.

However, fear of lawsuits shouldn’t be the only reason to make your hotel website ADA compliant:

  • It’s the right thing to do – From a purely human point of view, why would you want to close your doors to a disabled person? You’re in the hospitality industry. A good host opens their doors to everyone.
  • It can hurt your brand – Online reviews have never been more important. Multiple bad reviews and negative posts across social media can be an overwhelming disaster for your hotel and your brand.
  • It makes business sense – An ADA compliant hotel website lets you potentially welcome millions of new guests. That’s 61 million people in the U.S. and millions more from overseas.

Hotels are Magnets for Non-Compliance Lawsuits

Unlike other sectors, hotel website visitors are usually trying to turn into hotel guests. This unique business model makes hotels particularly vulnerable to being sued for ADA non-compliance for several reasons.

One of the main ones is inaccessible online hotel reservation systems. For example, some hotel websites might not accommodate vision-impaired users because they don’t have screen readers. Your website needs to be accessible to users who visit your site through the use of assistive technology.

Another non-compliance issue for hotel websites is a lack of content. A quick search will show many hotels don’t list the accessibility features of a room. Does the hotel have an elevator wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair? Does the bathtub have safety bars? Even if your online reservation system is accessible, a lack of information might stop disabled users from reserving a room.

And don’t think that operating a small hotel stops you from being sued. These lawsuits have also targeted smaller hotels and motels.

Auditing your Hotel for WCAG Compliance

No particular law regulates website ADA compliance. Nevertheless, there is a recognized standard for measuring it called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Levels A and AA. In 2018 a 2.1 update was added to cover new technologies. Any audit will compare all of the elements on your hotel website to these criteria.

Hotel websites must be audited using the 4 POUR principles:

Perceivable – A user must be able to navigate your website regardless of their disability. For instance, hearing-impaired users need to be able to enjoy any media through transcripts.

Operable – Disabled users should be able to access your website no matter the browsing method they use. Not all users operate a mouse. Some use keyboards and others use eye-tracking technology.

Understandable – All content must be clear and arranged in logical order. Disabled users shouldn’t have to click multiple pages or leave your site in frustration.

Robust – Some disabled users navigate via assistive technology that is cutting edge while others use older hardware. Your hotel website will have to provide access to a range of technologies.

Fixing Issues that Break a WCAG Guideline

As previously noted, your hotel website must consider users who navigate websites using assistive technologies like keyboards.

Some other common issues to look out for include:

  • Missing alt text – All images need to have alternative text to describe them.
  • Incorrect color contrast – WCAG guidelines provide specific ratios for website color contrast. Otherwise, colorblind users and those with poor vision might not make out what’s on the page.
  • Incomplete content – Give clear information on the accessible features of your rooms. Also include content regarding parking, elevators, the hotel lobby, reception and common area accessibility. If you don’t, disabled users probably won’t reserve a room in your hotel.

WCAG Pros Can Help

To make your website ADA compliant, the first step is a manual WCAG audit of your hotel site. That will identify all non-compliant elements. Once those elements are identified, they need to be remediated. Then another audit is run to ensure all elements now comply. Note that ADA compliance must be 100%. That’s why the process is so thorough. The results make it very worthwhile. Not only can you rest easier, your hotel website now serves millions of potential new guests too.