Get Up to Speed on B&B Website ADA Compliance & Accessibility

February 6, 2019 by Ben Lloyd

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In recent months, we’ve been fielding a lot of questions from our customers about the rules regarding ADA compliance for their website. Many people have been surprised to receive letters in the mail threatening lawsuits if their website is not made fully accessible. This has prompted a minor panic industry-wide. In the response to these concerns, Odysys has addressed major website compliance issues across our customer websites and provided our customers with help content on what to do. But there is still a lot of confusion about this subject.

I spoke with the president of AIHP, Rob Fulton, about how these new regulations will affect your property. In the latest episode of the InnSpeak podcast, we discussed ADA compliance and outlined a few practical ways that you can ensure that your website is accessible as possible.

Listen to the interview below and read on. CLICK THE BIG PLAY BUTTON TO LISTEN

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What Does ADA Compliance Mean for My Website?

A general lack of information about ADA compliance rules is partly to blame for the panic. The Department of Justice hasn’t demanded that all private business websites be ADA compliant… yet. Nonetheless, it is a good idea to start taking the steps towards making your website accessible. Making your website accessible is always great practice and will ultimately benefit you and your guests down the line.

But what does an ADA-compliant/accessible website actually entail? In general terms, ADA-compliant websites allow individuals who are deaf, blind, or who must navigate the web using voice controls to engage meaningfully with the site’s content. Updating your website to be fully ADA-compliant may sound like a daunting (and expensive) task, and the truth is that there is no hard and fast criteria for what makes a website ADA compliant. This is a problem.

The World Wide Web Consortium has issued a list of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that the DOJ encourages all businesses to consult. There are tools out there that will scan your website to see if it is ADA compliant. For example, Google Chrome can run a technical “Accessibility” scan for a web page. You can also consult an online source like A-Checker and Google’s web.dev features an accessibility score. However, these tools are not 100% fool-proof and they will not always give you a verifiable answer. These sources are still worth checking out, as long as you take their results with a grain of salt.

Keep in mind that there are no guidelines on what items that these tests report on are actually ‘need to have’ vs ‘nice to have’. Some tests like Google’s will produce a score out of 100, but there is no guidance as to what a minimum required score is to have your website be considered “accessible”. And again – no actual legal rulings or guidance have been provided.

Our advice: Make your best effort, work with your provider on what you can, and move on.

How Can I Begin Making my Website ADA Compliant?

Though the rules aren’t set in stone, there are changes you can start making today to ensure that your website is accessible from a technical standpoint. We suggest that you:

  • Create alt-tags for all images, videos, and audio files: Alt-tags allow individuals with disabilities to read or hear alternate descriptions they might not otherwise be able to view. Alt-tags describe the content and the purpose it serves on your site.
  • Create a consistent, organized layout: A truly user-friendly, well-organized website (including menus, links, buttons, and so on) will ensure that anyone can navigate it.
  • Ensure that your text is high contrast: High contrast text is easier to read and will help visually impaired individuals more easily engage with your content.
  • Provide Closed Caption and/or Text Transcripts for All Audio or Video Content: Closed captions and text transcripts will help hearing impaired users understand content that would otherwise be inaccessible to them
  • Improve the Contrast on Your Site’s Color Palate: Low contrast text is difficult or impossible for some users to read. Alter your color scheme so that the contrast is higher. This analyzer is helpful: https://dequeuniversity.com/rules/axe/2.2/color-contrast?application=lighthouse
  • Communicate clearly with guests about which rooms in your physical property are ADA compliant: It is also important to be honest about the accessibility of your property so your guests have an excellent experience once they arrive. Be forthright about your property’s accessibility features and give clear information about what rooms/areas meet ADA standards.
  • If you are an Odysys website customer – please see this support article: “Is My Odysys Site ADA Compliant?

Include an Accessibility Statement

While you are in the process of updating your site to be fully ADA-compliant, include an Accessibility Statement on your website. This will protect you from any liability and communicate with your guests that you are working to address the problem. A good accessibility statements explains that you recognize your site does not meet all ADA accessibility standards but that you are currently in the process of building a fully complaint site. In the statement, you should also provide alternate methods to get necessary information. For help with crafting your statement, you can:

  • Contact your legal counsel to perfect the verbiage
  • Google “How to Write a Website Accessibility Statement” or “Website Accessibility Generator.” We like this.
  • Consult with your local and national B&B/Innkeeping associations. There are resources on PAII.org & AIHP.
  • If you are an Odysys website customer – please see this support article: “Is My Odysys Site ADA Compliant?

Note: An Accessibility Statement is an easy and legal way to protect your website from lawsuits for the time being. However, if you use one of the aforementioned tools like A-Checker to verify whether or not your website is ADA compliant, it will still fail you. This is no cause for alarm. The statement still works.

But… My Property Doesn’t Have to be ADA Compliant

If your physical property is exempt from certain ADA requirements, that does not necessarily mean that your Website is exempt.. All innkeepers should begin the process of ensuring that your website is ADA-compliant. There is no need to panic, but it is good practice and good business to create websites all users can easily and meaningfully engage with.

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