Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 85 – ADA and WCAG 2.0 For Hotel Websites: What You Need To Know

by Stuart Butler

Is your hotel website accessible by everyone? If not, it should be and we’re going to tell you why and precisely what you need to do in this week’s Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast.

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What is ADA Compliance?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that was enacted in order to prevent discrimination of individuals with disabilities.
The ADA was originally designed to provide specific requirements for things like disabled parking, service counter accessibility, and wheelchair ramp mandates in building codes.
Title III of the ADA mandates that all “places of public accommodation” (all business open to the public) are legally required to remove any “access barriers” that would hinder a disabled person’s access to that business’s goods or services.
Originally, “access barriers” was understood to mean literal barriers such as  stairs that would prevent a wheelchair from accessing a business.
Although not its original intent with ADA, the US Department of Justice indicated that they intended to amend Title III of the ADA to ensure it would cover website accessibility in 2010.

Why do I need to be ADA compliant?

  1. To prevent exposure from discrimination lawsuits
  2. To increase your audience reach
  3. To demonstrate your hotel’s dedication to social responsibility as you create a website that is truly about providing an equal opportunity to all users.
  4. To improve user-experience. Many of the requirements are good practices for all website users as they encourage clean design, clear messaging and intuitive interfaces.
  5. To rank higher in search engines. Improved web accessibility also applies to search engine crawlers. I.e better accessibility equals better SEO.

What do I need to do to be ADA Compliant?

Most courts are turning to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 AA).as the standard for ADA compliance. There are A and AAA versions, but the courts seem to be looking at AA as the standard.

What does WCAG 2.0 AA cover?

WCAG 2.0 is the technical standard featuring 12 guidelines under four categories:

  • Principle 1: Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive..
    • 1.1 Text Alternatives: Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
    • 1.2 Time-based Media: Provide alt ernatives for time-based media.
    • 1.3 Adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
    • 1.4 Distinguishable: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
  • Principle 2: Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable.
    • 2.1 Keyboard Accessible: Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
    • 2.2 Enough Time: Provide users enough time to read and use content.
    • 2.3 Seizures: Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
    • 2.4 Navigable: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
  • Principle 3: Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.


    • 3.1 Readable: Make text content readable and understandable.
    • 3.2 Predictable: Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
    • 3.3 Input Assistance: Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
  • Principle 4: Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
    • 4.1 Compatible: Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

Here’s a link to the WCAG guidelines.

What website changes do I need to make?

  1. Perceivable Category

This category ensures that all content is accessible by everyone.

  • Add descriptions, or transcripts for pre-recorded video and audio content
  • Add descriptive ALT  text for meaningful images so that they can be read by screen readers
  • Label non-meaningful images to be ignored by screen readers
  • Allow the user to change font size without messing up the page structure
  • Allow the content to make sense and appear in the correct order when style sheets are disabled
  • Ensure enough contrast between text and its background color
  1. Operable Category

This category gives guidelines to ensure the functionality of your website does not create problems for users.

  • Add meaningful page titles that accurately portray the content.
  • Ensure that link anchor text is intuitive
  • Allow block of repetitive content to be skipped by screen readers.
  • Give the ability to pause time-based movement such as the hero images or delayed transitions.
  • Implement clear page hierarchy and content labeling so users can decipher where they are on the website.
  • Do not rely solely on color to relay information
  • Remove all content that could cause seizures.
  1. Understandable Category

This category is designed to ensure that web pages feature logical functionality and language.

  • Define the language being used in your META tags.
  • Ensure that navigation is consistent across the website.INCLUDING THE BOOKING ENGINE.
  • Ensure that the focus or selection of elements within the page doesn’t change the content or the functionality of the page.
  • Ensure that repetitive content blocks throughout the site are labelled consistently.
  • Ensure that forms contain labels and appropriate instructions, including:
    • Logical field names
    • Clear and understandable error messages
    • Clearly defined required fields
    • Tool tips.
  1. Robust Category

This section gives guidelines to ensure that a website’s code is “robust” enough to help assistive readers understand the code.

  • Ensure that your HTML code validation according to W3C standards

Other things to consider regarding ADA compliance.

  1. If a single page is not compliant, then your whole site is not compliant
  2. All website stakeholders should be trained on ADA compliance and the impact they can have when adding content or updating code.
  3. ADA compliance should be constantly checked as your status can change when new content is added.
  4. You can check your ADA compliance using tools such as:https://wave.webaim.org/

Listener Question:
I am top of B&B ranking in TA but my direct competition is local hotels and of course I don’t appear in hotel lists. Am I one of those rare cases that should go for sponsored listing? I don’t have business listing at the moment. – Julia (South Lodge Boutique B&B)
Good news Julia, You can participate in sponsored listings even if you don’t have a business listing.  However, that may not be the best marketing strategy just yet. Our concern is South Lodge Boutique, in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England does not have a way for guests to book via TripAdvisor after they get to your profile.  Meaning, you’ll be paying for the sponsored position only to drive the guest (who you just paid for) to book via an OTA… and thus have to pay for the booking again.
Plus, when Sponsored positions offers almost no tracking or accountability, you won’t be able to tell if the additional exposure is valuable at all. This becomes balancing act between the cost of the sponsored position (£140+/month, $200+/month) and the cost of an OTA booking compared to the cost of getting that booking via other means.
Before investing in a Sponsored Position we would look at how you can maximize your other marketing efforts, such as vacation rental and bed and breakfast listings, social, owned email, etc.

  • Maximize your facebook exposure
  • Consider a business listing in TripAdvisor (if you are adamant to use Sponsored Positions)
  • Make better use of AirBnB and VRBO
  • BedAndBreakfast.com could be a big opportunity for you (no listing and almost zero competition)

In The Newsies
Amazon now allows Echo users to create custom skills. Hotels can benefit and hilarity ensues
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