For most of us, the process of travelling from point A to point B starts long before physically boarding a vehicle. It starts with planning. And that usually involves going online.
We use the web to search schedules, look at maps and routes, find the locations of stations, get pricing, research the destinations, read about special trip offers, purchase fares, and book rental cars. If you have a disability, in additional to these activities you might also look for information about accessible vehicles, boarding and wayfinding assistance, on-board announcements, accommodations for service animals, equipment storage, and ticket rates for companions.
It’s why web accessibility is so critical at this stage of the journey. It allows people with disabilities to read a web page and use all the features of a website without encountering barriers.
Improvements in Accessible Transportation
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2002 National Transportation Availability and Use Survey, three out of five Americans with disabilities at that time were leaving their homes between five and seven days per week. However, the survey also found that those with the most difficulties accessing transportation were least likely to leave home frequently1.
Fortunately, accessible transportation has been steadily improving since then. A report released by the department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that in the years between 2000 and 2010, the number of transit buses in the U.S. with ramps or lifts increased from 79.9 to 98.8 percent. In that same decade, the number of accessible rail stations across the country also increased dramatically2.
But the ability to physically get on a train or bus – or a cruise ship, airplane or taxi, for that matter – does not do you much good if you have no easy way of booking tickets before they’re sold out, or finding out which departure time or date will fit your schedule.
More Attention to Web Accessibility
Even if there are alternative ways to make your travel plans that don’t involve going on a website or using an app, it’s cumbersome – and unquestionably unfair – to have to phone a bus carrier or order a brochure to get the same information or make the same purchases that other customers can do on the Internet. Transportation providers are ever more aware that online accessibility is just as important as on-board accessibility.
So are governments, which are taking web accessibility into account as they interpret or update regulations that affect the transportation sector. For example, the Air Carrier Access Act specifically requires all websites of airlines serving the United States to be accessible to people with disabilities, among other accommodations.
Depending on whether a transportation provider is private or government-funded, statewide or local, different laws may apply that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.
Website barriers are a form of discrimination, as they block people with disabilities from being able to use the same online services or access the same online information as everyone else. Companies are obligated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and may also be subject to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, or state and local civil rights laws (an example is the DC Human Rights Act in Washington).
How Transportation Website Barriers Affect People with Disabilities
Here are some examples of online barriers that might pose problems for people with various disabilities:
- A schedule of departures and arrivals is posted in an inaccessible PDF format. When a person who is blind opens the PDF page, the text on the page will not be recognized by screen-reading software.
- On the ticket order form, the tab order of the fields is not in a logical order. It jumps around from address to name to phone number. When a person with limited use of their hands is using the tab button instead of a mouse to click through the fields, they can’t easily get from one field to the next.
- The form fields are not marked up properly with labels. A person using a screen reader will have no way of knowing which field is for “name,” which is for “phone number,” and so on.
- The total travel cost, with taxes included, is displayed as a popup when a mouse is hovering over the basic ticket price. Again, people with disabilities who rely on the keyboard instead of a mouse will not see this information.
- The lowest fare on any given day is shown in a red font, while the other fares on the same date are in blue. Anyone who cannot see color – someone who is blind or colorblind, for instance – will not notice that one fare has been highlighted as the cheapest.
- A video with rider tips and safety information has not been captioned. Someone who is deaf may not be able to understand the video.
These issues and more are addressed – and solved – by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG 2.0 is the world’s most widely used set of technical requirements for web accessibility.
Best Practice for Transportation Providers
Transportation providers that want to comply with the law, avoid discrimination, and provide a high standard of service to customers with disabilities need to remember that accessible trips start with accessible websites. They should ensure that all features on their site, including route planners, reservation systems and payment processes, have been designed to be barrier-free and in compliance with WCAG 2.0 or 2.1. Speak with an experienced web accessibility partner who can conduct web accessibility testing, help you remediate your site and continue to monitor it to ensure that it’s fully usable by people with disabilities.
An Innovative Solution
eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation and remediation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.