How disability-friendly websites improve results
Companies should not overlook digital accessibility
Businesses should not overlook digital accessibility when considering travelers with disabilities or additional needs, a session heard at World Travel Market London.
Up to 95% of websites are not suitable for people with disabilities, said Heather Hepburn, director of accessibility at Skyscanner, and this contributes to the disproportionate amount of time and cost involved in booking accessible travel.
The company, which is a founding member of the Champions of Accessibility Network (CAN), has recently been testing improvements to its own website with the help of potential customers with dyslexia and visual impairments.
Hepburn emphasized the value of courting travelers with accessibility needs. Recent Skyscanner research with disability charity Scope found that 73% of respondents were more likely to use an accessible website, while 80% would recommend it to others.
“It's a great opportunity to expand your audience size and increase your results,” Hepburn said. “It has to be built in at the beginning of our design process.”
The company is also revising its training to include more on accessibility. One of their recent additions is an empathy lab where staff members are asked to complete tasks with simulated impairments, such as restricted vision.
As well as emphasizing the financial potential of the sector, Ross Calladine, Head of Business Support at Visit England, the Government's ambassador for disability and access for tourism, noted that around 17% of the international population has a disability.
In England alone, pre-pandemic spending generated by travelers with disabilities and groups where a member has accessibility needs was estimated to be around £15.3 billion a year.
“Improving accessibility for tourists also improves it for local people,” Calladine added, going on to say that tourism boards had a “natural role to play” by providing free practical guidance to tour providers.
In addition to its advisory role, Visit England is also working on more representative marketing. Calladine praised the tourist boards of Germany, Portugal, Spain and Flanders for similar progress on accessibility.
Meanwhile, Robin Shepherd, president of Bespoke Hotels, called for better incentives for companies to improve accessibility. He noted that UK law currently allows for a 'pass or fail' scenario, whereas a Gold, Silver or Bronze award structure would be more attractive. “Why not celebrate doing better than what you were asked to do?” he said.
Some of Bespoke Hotels' own properties make 10% of the rooms accessible instead of the usual 5% and include less-than-considered facilities such as elevators. The group also has accessibility suites. "Why not put a little fun, style, design, and joy into the way you meet your accessible room?" she asked.
“The main problem is that we build disappointment. Not surprisingly, the accessible room is next to the elevator, has no view, and is painted gray.”