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Digital Accessibility Index: For People With Disabilities, Booking Travel Online Can Be a Burden

Posted November 01, 2023


Posted November 01, 2023

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Breaking down key insights from AudioEye's 2023 Digital Accessibility Index.

Summary: We wanted to identify the biggest accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face when trying to book travel online, so we scanned thousands of travel sites as part of our 2023 Digital Accessibility Index. Then we had our team of certified experts manually audit some of the world’s biggest travel sites, focusing on key areas like picking flights or comparing hotel rooms. Here’s what we found.

For people with disabilities, accessibility barriers can often complicate travel. From using multiple modes of transportation to navigating unfamiliar environments, the more variables involved, the more that can go wrong.

Unfortunately, these barriers aren’t limited to the physical world. The experience of booking travel online can be just as problematic. In fact, our scan of nearly 40,000 enterprise websites found that travel sites had some of the highest accessibility failure rates of any industry.

Here’s a breakdown of the most common accessibility issues on travel sites today — plus insights from members of the disability community:

“Travel sites can do a lot of things well. But if the booking process is clunky, that’s what is going to stick in everybody’s mind.”

Maxwell Ivey | AudioEye A11iance Advocate

40% of travel pages with a form had unlabeled form fields — plus more insights.

Our scan of over 55,000 pages on travel sites revealed a number of accessibility issues that can make it difficult for people with disabilities to look up hotel or flight information, compare rooms, or navigate between sections of a site:

  • 73% of pages had images with vague or missing image alternative text, which can make it difficult for non-sighted users to get critical information about rooms, amenities, and more.
  • 54% of pages were missing frame titles, which can make it difficult for screen reader users to find content or orient themselves within a page.
  • 40% of pages with a form had at least one unlabeled field, which can make it difficult for screen reader users to know what information to enter into each field.

Often, these issues can be so disruptive to the user experience that people with disabilities have no choice but to try another, more accessible website or mobile app — leading to lost revenue and damage to their brand perception.

Get more travel insights from AudioEye’s Digital Accessibility Index

Manual audits of the top travel sites uncovered significant accessibility barriers.

Our expert review of the top travel sites confirmed many of the same issues as our automated scan — plus a number of additional barriers that can make it hard for people with disabilities to book travel online.

On multiple sites, testers using pop-up windows to select rooms, dates, or flights were unable to close the windows using a keyboard alone — which can prevent screen reader users and people using sip-and-puff devices from being able to return to the main page content.

Our testers also found that many images of hotel rooms and amenities were simply labeled “lobby” or “room” — instead of providing more descriptive alt text that would help non-sighted users better understand the experience of staying at that hotel.

Finally, our testers encountered a number of links and page elements that were not properly described for non-sighted users — which can make it difficult for them to orient themselves on a page or know where clicking a link will take them.

Learn what else our expert testers uncovered →

“One time I knew my destination, I knew my dates. I was just going to get the ticket … and I got stuck. It was a bad experience for me as a customer, because I had to switch platforms when I was almost done.”

Charles Hiser | AudioEye A11iance Advocate

Digital accessibility isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also good business.

Ensuring that everyone can easily book travel online isn’t just a legal requirement or moral imperative; it also makes financial sense.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Services, 25.5 million Americans age 5 and older have self-reported travel-limiting disabilities. Of these people, 3.6 million don’t leave their homes because they are disabled or housebound.

Eliminating some of the digital barriers that make traveling difficult doesn’t just help members of the disability community who already travel on a regular basis; it can also increase the likelihood that those who don’t currently leave their homes are able to.

By embracing digital accessibility, travel sites can broaden their customer base, enhance their brand reputation, and better serve the diverse needs of all customers.

Want to learn more about the accessibility of the world’s leading brands? Check out the full Digital Accessibility Index. Or, get a free scan of any URL on your website to see how you compare to the leading financial services sites.

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