Disabled users not catered for by travel websites, study claims

Disabled users not catered for by travel websites, study claims

Shortcomings have been revealed for disabled users using a number of UK travel websites.

The results come from a study of the user experience and accessibility 10 travel sites.

Skyscanner, Airbnb, LateRooms, Booking.com, lastminute.com, OnTheBeach, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Co-operative Travel, and Expedia all fell short, according to the research conducted by digital agency Sigma.

The websites were scored 23 out of a possible 35 across a variety of categories encompassing overall usability; how easy to use the sites were across different devices; and accessibility for all users, including those with physical, cognitive and visual disabilities.

Many of the sites failed when it came to accessibility and inclusivity for disabled users – six out of 10 were too cluttered which meant important information could be missed by partially sighted users, while nearly half had inconsistent interfaces, making going through the booking process difficult.

An additional third of the sites blocked the ability to zoom in and out on an iPad; while four out of 10 sites did not contain alt text on their images, meaning visually impaired users would struggle to know what was contained in the images; and only two were screen reader friendly.

Sigma managing director Hilary Stephenson said: “The findings of our research demonstrate that travel companies are indeed adopting good web usability practices in the main.

“They also clearly recognise the importance of being easy to use across different devices – including mobile and tablet PC – with many having responsive and adaptive websites, and invested in mobile apps.

“However, accessibility testing with independent consultant, Molly Watt – who was born deaf and now has partial sight – revealed a number of potentially concerning findings when it comes to how accommodating the sites were for disabled users.

“While six out of 10 of the sites had good colour contrast, scores against the remaining accessibility factors were low.

“The fact that many of the sites didn’t contain alt text, and most of them weren’t screen reader friendly means that partially sighted people would really struggle to use some of them.

“That’s not to say all the sites hadn’t considered accessibility though – Expedia and LateRooms scored particularly well in this section.

“With over 10 million people in the UK living with a disability, the growing importance of being accessible and inclusive to all users absolutely cannot be ignored. Total digital inclusion must now be a priority to these businesses, so everyone is able to access the same services online, regardless of whether they have a disability or not.

“While it might seem like a minefield, there are a number of small changes travel companies could consider making which would really improve accessibility of sites – using a simple and un-cluttered layout, enabling the zoom function, and amending colour-contrasts to avoid all white pages would be good places to start.”

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