Imagine for a minute that you decide to take a vacation. You’re thinking Hawaii, Tahiti or the Alps. You grab your computer, open a browser, type in your favorite airline and then stop.
Why? Unfortunately for 19 percent of the US population that live with disabilities, this is the consequence when navigating to an inaccessible website for air transportation.
If they can’t access the content, they can’t use the site.
Or, what about having to pay extra to make the booking by phone all because the website was inaccessible?
Now imagine arriving at the airport and trying to check-in with a kiosk, but it isn’t accessible.
Airlines offer help, but this can mean standing in a long check-in line, and surely this isn’t best practice.
New rules within the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) are about to change all this. Issued by the US Department of Transportation (DOT), the rules require US and foreign carriers to make websites offering air transportation to the American public and automated kiosks at US airports accessible to individuals with disabilities.
There are three key requirements of the Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel:
Accessibility of Web Site and Automated Kiosks at US Airports regulation.
These include making web content comply with the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 levels A and AA; ensuring all online discounts or opportunities are given to people with disabilities whose disability makes online access impossible; and that automated kiosks must be accessible. Time is going to run out fast so it’s important for airlines to have a plan in place now.
By November 2015, all core functions of an airline’s website like reservations, ticketing, check in, managing your booking and frequent flyer accounts need to conform to WCAG 2.0, levels A and AA.
And, by November 2016, all web pages need to conform to this same standard.
Solving accessibility issues, in any industry, starts with knowing how accessible your website is to begin with. Airlines need to benchmark for web accessibility by auditing their current website to identify issues and map out a plan for remediation as a starting point.
Every page that is accessed by users with disabilities needs to be individually tested. Airlines should develop robust test scripts that cover all of core pages, manually test each of those pages with assistive technology, and use an automated testing solution that can perform test scripts.
Airlines that comply with scanning content for accessibility and solving issues will ensure the widest possible audience can access discounts online, reducing the number of phone transactions required.
Any automated kiosks installed after November 2016 must meet basic accessibility requirements in the rule, until at least 25% of all kiosks are accessible. Notwithstanding this requirement for new kiosks, by November 2023, airlines must ensure that at least 25% of all kiosks are accessible.
Generally, all of the functions available on inaccessible kiosks must be available on accessible kiosks.
There are plenty of third parties out there to help with web accessibility. Many offer an automated solution which can scan thousands of pages of content to help companies quickly understand the level required to resolve issues.
In addition, content is always changing so using an automated system will help ensure it remains accessible
While aimed at airlines conducting business in the US, these new regulations continue the global trend towards WCAG 2.0 AA as the standard for accessibility. I predict this will inevitably become a requirement for all US organizations with a web presence.
NB: Ken Nakata, is an attorney in the of IT accessibility and director of HiSoftware’s Accessibility Consulting Practice (ACP).