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Top travel websites still failing users with disabilities, report uncovers

Many of the most popular travel companies are still not making their websites accessible, new research has found.

The report (named ‘Are travel companies burying their heads in the sand when it comes to user experience and accessibility?’, compiled by digital user experience agency Sigma), tested ten of the most popular travel websites in the UK across three main categories: accessibility; usability; ease of use on different devices.

The accessibility testing uncovered a wide range of problems across the sites for users with disabilities, particularly those with visual impairments.

The ten sites tested were: Airbnb, Booking.com, British Airways, Co-operative Travel, Expedia, lastminute.com, LateRooms, On the Beach, Skyscanner and Virgin Atlantic.

Molly Watt, an independent accessibility consultant and founder of the Molly Watt Trust charity, tested the travel sites as part of the report. Watt, who has Usher syndrome, was born deaf and is registered blind, retaining a small degree of vision.

Problems that Watt discovered with the travel sites included: colours and fonts being “too garish”; zooming features being disabled; cluttered content; and “design-based trends” on web pages, such as text over images, or moving images.

Watt told e-Access Bulletin that the biggest improvement travel websites could make for impaired users is to “simplify”. Giving examples of this, she said: “Travel websites need to avoid temporary pop-ups, as they can confuse or worry some users who might then think they have missed an important message … Colour contrasts also need to be improved, especially in drop-down menus and calendars – these are all crucial details.”

A number of other accessibility problems were found. Only two sites (Expedia and Virgin Atlantic) were found to be compatible with a screen-reader, some had switched off the zoom function, many images weren’t accompanied by alt text, and not all sites were navigable with the ‘tab’ key.

The travel site with the highest overall accessibility score was Expedia, which scored 10 out of a possible 11. Co-operative Travel scored lowest, achieving just 1 out of 11 (colour contrast, confusing drop-down menus and overly busy page layouts were some of the reasons given).

Watt told e-Access Bulletin that travel companies are missing out on business by not properly catering for users with disabilities. “So much is advertised online these days. It’s ridiculous, therefore, that these websites aren’t fully accessible, and as a result, disabled users are missing out. Something needs to change, and fast.”

This view is supported by a summary of key findings at the end of the report, including an observation that although accessibility is crucial, many sites still aren’t prioritising it. The report says: “If companies continue to ignore accessibility, they could be isolating millions of users, risking reputation, customer loyalty, and profits.”

Read more about the report and download it in full at Sigma’s website, at the following link: http://eab.li/21 .

Read more about Molly Watt’s work on her website, at the following link: http://eab.li/20 .

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