Barrier-Free Vacations: Making Your Travel Site Accessible

Barrier-Free Vacations: Making Your Travel Site Accessible

When we talk about accessible vacations, our minds often go straight to physical accommodations: Is the hotel wheelchair-friendly? Are there audio guides for visually impaired guests? Will the rooms be equipped for limited mobility, with grab bars and walk-in showers? 1. Finding accessible holiday options is a significant obstacle, as evidenced by 81% of travelers with disabilities who have reported experiencing difficulties during their travels. However, there’s an aspect of travel that is frequently overlooked – the very starting point of any vacation. The travel website. 

Most trips begin with some browsing of sites, moving to booking, typically made through a digital platform such as a website or mobile app, or even through a brochure. That’s why it’s essential to consider the accessibility of these initial touchpoints to truly offer an inclusive travel experience.

When people search for inclusive travel options, they might type phrases like ‘vacations for people with disabilities,’trips for people with disabilities,’ or ‘holidays for people with disabilities’ into Google. These are just some of the search terms that will be the first step in their journey to find a getaway that suits their needs. 

But the real question is, once they land on your website, can they navigate and use it with ease? It matters that your site is not just discoverable, but also fully accessible, so that every potential traveler can plan and book their trip without any barriers.

We’re going to walk you through some considerations on accessible holidays, tailored specifically for website owners and developers in the travel industry.  In this piece, we’re going to equip you with essential knowledge and practical tools to ensure your website is not only compliant with web accessibility standards but also delivers an inclusive user experience. We’ll take a look at 3 essential areas:

1. Understanding web accessibility standards. We’ll guide you through regulations and standards like the ADA and WCAG, discussing the legal implications of non-compliance, providing actionable steps for effective implementation.

2. Designing for digitally inclusive accessible holidays. Our focus will shift to how you can create a website that caters to a diverse range of users, ensuring it’s user-friendly for people with various disabilities. This includes practical tips on navigation, responsive design, and accessible booking processes.

3. Testing and maintaining accessibility. We’ll emphasize the importance of regular testing and updating your website to maintain accessibility, including both automated tools and user feedback.

Throughout the piece, we’ll also shine a spotlight on some global hotspots renowned for their accessibility. Ready to get started?

Hotspot #1: Barcelona, Spain: Renowned for its architectural marvels, Barcelona is also a leader in accessibility. The city boasts wheelchair-friendly sidewalks and public transportation, including accessible buses and metro stations. Major attractions like Sagrada Familia have ramps and elevators, making them easy to explore.

Understanding web accessibility standards

At the heart of web accessibility regulations and standards are The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), formulated by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), set the benchmark for web accessibility, and offer a framework to make web content accessible to a broader range of users, including those with disabilities. These guidelines help in crafting websites that are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, ensuring a seamless experience for everyone.

It’s important to note the evolution of these standards for complete accessibility. While WCAG 2.1 made strides, WCAG 2.2 is the latest iteration and focuses on the requirements of people with cognitive disabilities. Transitioning to WCAG 2.2 is essential to ensure that web accessibility truly accommodates the full spectrum of disabilities, including cognitive needs.

For travel businesses operating under the jurisdiction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), this legislation plays a crucial role in safeguarding individuals with disabilities against discrimination. The ADA specifically mandates that digital services, including websites, be accessible to those with disabilities. Compliance with these guidelines is vital for travel businesses to mitigate legal risks and cater to a diverse clientele, ensuring that their services are easily accessible to all.

Hotspot #2” Sydney, Australia: Famous for its Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Sydney also excels in accessibility. The city offers a range of wheelchair-accessible accommodations and beaches with free beach wheelchairs. Its public transportation system, including ferries, is equipped to accommodate travelers with disabilities.

Designing for digitally inclusive accessible holidays

Accessible vacations start with an accessible website. This means designing interfaces that accommodate a variety of needs, ensuring that all travelers, regardless of their abilities, can effortlessly navigate, understand, and use your website. It’s about creating a space where booking a vacation is not hindered by unnecessary obstacles, but is a smooth, intuitive process. By prioritizing accessibility in your design, you’re not just enhancing functionality; you’re also sending a message of welcome and inclusivity.

Ensuring that every aspect of your online platform – from browsing vacation options to finalizing a booking – is accessible and user-friendly is key to crafting an experience that resonates with everyone.

Designing for inclusive user experiences is about weaving accessibility into the very fabric of your online presence so vacation planning can be an experience everyone can enjoy.

Hotspot #3: Vancouver, Canada: Vancouver is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and is known for its accessible public spaces. The city boasts parks and even beaches with mobility mats, making nature accessible. Attractions like the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and Stanley Park are must-visit sites with accessibility features.

Testing and maintaining accessibility

Testing and maintaining accessibility is an ongoing journey, important for ensuring that every traveler continues to have a seamless experience. Regular accessibility audits play a huge role in this process. They involve evaluations of your website to identify and address any barriers that might hinder users with disabilities. These audits will help you to continually fine-tune your website to meet evolving standards and user needs.

Following an audit, remediation is key. This means taking the insights from the audits and making necessary adjustments to enhance accessibility. It could involve tweaking the website’s design, refining its navigation, or updating content to be more inclusive. The goal is to ensure that from the moment a user starts planning their vacation to the time they book, every step is accessible and hassle-free.

Hotspot #4: Orlando, Florida, USA: Home to world-famous theme parks, Orlando has made significant strides in accessibility. The parks offer rental mobility devices, sensory guides, and accessible rides and attractions. The city itself is equipped with accessible hotels and transportation, catering to a variety of needs.

7 steps for an accessible holiday booking experience 

Now that we’ve explored the various considerations of web accessibility, how can you create a digital space that provides accessible travel information?Get your site in alignment with the WCAG. Let’s distill the WCAG success criteria into practical actions:

1. Consistent Navigation

Ensure that your website’s navigation is uniform across all pages. This consistency aids users in easily locating travel options and information, thereby minimizing cognitive effort.

2. Readable text

Choose clear, legible fonts, and maintain large text with ample spacing. This approach makes travel descriptions and instructions more approachable for all users.

3. Clear structure

Employ headings, bullet points, and formatting tools to organize content. A well-structured layout acts as a compass, guiding travelers smoothly through your website.

4. Simplicity in design and content

Aim for straightforward design and content. Overly complex layouts can be overwhelming, detracting from the focus on travel details.

5. Recognizable symbols & icons

Utilize universally known symbols and icons, especially in areas like navigation aids and booking procedures, to avoid confusion.

6. Diverse content access

Accommodate users who might find text challenging by incorporating visual aids, audio guides, and video walkthroughs of travel experiences and booking processes.

7. Ample time for interactions

If your website includes timed functions, such as booking confirmations or checkouts, provide an option to extend time limits, ensuring all users, regardless of their processing speed, can complete their travel arrangements comfortably.

Following these guidelines will help you make sure that the customer journey – from browsing to booking is streamlined, barrier-free and accessible.

Hotspot #5: Berlin, Germany: A city rich in history, Berlin is also remarkably accessible. Its public transportation system is well-equipped for travelers with disabilities, and many historical sites, including the Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate, are accessible.

UserWay: making travel sites accessible

When it comes to making sites, apps and digital documents accessible, it’s important to remember how valuable partnering with experts can be. By collaborating with accessibility experts, like UserWay, you align with web accessibility standards, comply with accessibility law while creating travel experiences that are welcoming from the start. Start a free trial to begin your journey into web accessibility.  


Why is digital accessibility important when marketing trips for people with disabilities?

Digital accessibility ensures that online content and tools are usable by everyone, including people with disabilities. It enhances the overall user experience, making trip planning and booking processes seamless and inclusive​​.

What distinguishes an accessible vacation from a regular vacation?

An accessible vacation is specifically planned with accommodations, transportation, and activities that are easily navigable and enjoyable for people with disabilities.

How can travel websites make vacations for people with disabilities consistent with web accessibility?

To maintain consistent web accessibility, travel websites should regularly conduct accessibility audits and remediate based on their findings. This includes updating the website’s design, navigation, and content to be more inclusive and meet evolving standards.

Check Your Site for Accessibility Issues

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