When hotelier websites and booking tools are properly designed and coded, people with disabilities can use them. However, currently many travel sites and tools online are developed with accessibility barriers that make them difficult or impossible for some people to use.
Introduction to WCAG Compliance & Web Accessibility
Overall, the underlying power of the web is its universality. It almost goes without saying that it should work for all people, regardless of their hardware or device, software, language, location, or ability. The web is supposed to remove barriers to communication and interaction that many people face in the physical world. However, when websites, applications, technologies, or tools are badly designed, they can create barriers that exclude people from using it.
That’s where WCAG compliance and Web Accessibility enters the travel picture. What is WCAG and what does it mean? WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Simply put, it means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. These guidelines ensure that websites and services are accessible. As an example, this may mean making online forms functional without the reliance of a mouse or by including text alternatives to website images. More specifically, online guests arriving to your hotel online can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with your site and booking tools.
There are three levels of WCAG compliance:
- Level A — The lowest level needed to be accessible
- Level AA — The most common level, where products and services are marketed online (hotels typically fall within this category)
- Level AAA — The strictest level (government agencies, schools, and colleges)
Why is WCAG Important for Hoteliers?
The answer is obvious—increased online bookings and revenue. In fact, a 2018 market study conducted by Mandala Research finds that American adults with disabilities spend more than $17 billion each year on travel. The impact is even greater when you consider their family members and travel companions factored into the spend. According to the CDC, 61 million or 1 in 4 (26%) of adults in US has some type of disability. The global number is even more significant: the World Bank Group reports one billion people or 15% of the world’s population experiences some form of disability.
Accessibility supports inclusion for people with disabilities as well as others, such as older people. While millennials continue to capture a great deal of attention among hoteliers, the aging population of baby boomers also brings sizable buying power and interest for hoteliers around the globe. In fact, a 2019 study for TripBarometer, conducted by TripAdvisor, showed that baby boomers spend over twice as much on accommodation ($1,540 stay) compared to millennials ($675 stay) based on their most recent trip. On top of that, baby boomers typically keep faithful to hospitality tradition—preferring hotels/motels over the rise of non-traditional accommodations of Airbnb and boutique properties.
In addition, the numbers above increase markedly when you consider the number of travelers who wear eyeglasses or people with a temporary condition, like a broken arm.
These numbers and basic facts not only give you some indication of the market potential for hoteliers, but it also highlights why WCAG compliance is essential for hotels looking to provide a quality experience for every guest.
One Last Important Factor of Consideration for WCAG
American hotels are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. This includes identifying in detail the accessibility features of both the hotel itself and of its hotel rooms. In response, your hotels’ websites should also be designed and maintained to ensure that all guests can properly conduct any necessary travel planning, booking, and transactions online.
Presenting a strong case for compliance, hoteliers of every size have been the target of customer complaints and, in some cases, lawsuits related to noncompliance with the ADA. This further demonstrates to hotels the importance of meeting website accessibility guidelines sooner, rather than later.
We hope that this blog clearly outlines what WCAG is and its importance to the overall hotel industry. In our next WCAG blog, we’ll share a number of things hoteliers can do themselves to make their sites accessible.