Four Ways to Remove Barriers to Hotel Website Access

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990, protects civil rights, prohibits discrimination, and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life. Participation in the mainstream includes the ability to purchase goods and services, like travel products.

According to the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments, “Many people with disabilities use assistive technology that enables them to use computers. Some assistive technology involved separate computer programs or devices, such as screen readers, text enlargement software, and computer programs that enable people to control the computer with their voice. Other assistance technology is built into computer operating systems. For example, basic accessibility features in computer operating systems enable some people with low vision to see computer displays by simply adjusting color schemes, contrast settings, and font sizes. Operating systems enable people with limited manual dexterity to move the mouse pointer using key strokes instead of a standard mouse. Many other types of assistive technology are available, and more are still being developed.”[i]

Poorly designed websites can create unnecessary barriers for people with disabilities, just as poorly designed buildings prevent some people with disabilities from entering.

Even with the best of intentions, hoteliers face a number of challenges as they work to comply with website accessibility for guests, and potential guests, with special needs. If you did everything that many of the lawyers and consultants in this space are recommending, your website would start to look like CraigsList, without the images and other elements that make our websites beautiful and inspiring.

So, what are you to do? HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Council has several recommendations:


  • Be reactionary. It is very common today for hoteliers to receive threatening nastygrams from rogue lawyers – demanding they immediately change their websites, or be sued. Because there are currently no firm governmental standards about what defines “ADA website compliance,” there is an inherent danger in overreacting. You might spend a lot of time and money “fixing” the problems that a specific law firm outlines based on their own self-serving interests, and the next day get another letter from another law firm that has a different subjective interpretation.
  • Spend money without clear guidance and a plan – you might not end up fixing what truly needs to be fixed.


  • Start by speaking with your attorney who can help you define what ADA compliance in the online space means to you as a company. Be clear about what is set in stone, and what is open to interpretation.
  • Consider following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 from W3C. At the moment, this outlines the commonly accepted target for retail and hotel websites, and some hotels have found these guidelines to be the de facto standard.
  • Pick some low-hanging fruit: adding alt tags to images. This step is very easy to implement immediately, especially as images are added or updated. Make sure that all players adding images (at your corporate office, at your agency, and on property) understand what to do, how to do it, and why.
  • Look at the ADA as a market of opportunity, instead of as a compliance/regulation issue. Think about how you can leverage content and resources that may not live directly on your website – like reviews and social media – to reach this audience.



About HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Council

HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Council connects travel marketers in a way that leverages interactive customer engagement as a marketing medium while increasing the awareness of emerging issues, opportunities and trends. This is accomplished through a wide range of information sharing, networking and educational opportunities. 2016-2017 members include:

  • CHAIR: Holly Zoba, CHDM, Senior Vice President of Hospitality Sales, Signature Worldwide
  • VICE CHAIR: Shawn Paley, CHDM, Director, Global eCommerce & Digital Services, Marriott International
  • Shaun Aukland, Senior Account Executive, Google
  • Aimee Cheek, CHDM, Director of eCommerce, OTO Development
  • Robert Cole, Founder-CEO, RockCheetah
  • Chris Copp, VP, Global Digital Marketing, IHG
  • Erica Eyring, CHDM, Director, Account Management, Expedia Media Solutions
  • Isaac Gerstenzang, CHDM, Assistant Vice President, Corporate E-commerce, Destination Hotels
  • Loren Gray, CHDM, Founder, Hospitality Digital Marketing
  • Jamie Hansen, CHDM, Director, Marketing, Best Western Hotels & Resorts
  • Carolyn Hosna, CHDM, Sr. Corp. Director, Marketing & Distribution, White Lodging
  • Jay Hubbs, III, CHDM, Senior Vice President, eCommerce, Remington Hotels
  • Michael Innocentin, Executive Director, Digital Marketing, FRHI Hotels & Resorts
  • John Jimenez, CHDM, Portfolio Director of eCommerce, Interstate Hotels & Resorts
  • Chris LaRose, VP, eCommerce Americas, Hilton Worldwide
  • Sarita Mallinger, Regional Director, Digital Marketing, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
  • Delana Meyer, CHDM, Corporate Director of eCommerce and Marketing, Crescent Hotels & Resorts
  • Amy Mierzwinski, CHDM, Principal , John Fareed Hospitality Consulting
  • Anna Paccone, CHDM, eCommerce Director, National Sales, Pillar Hotels & Resorts
  • Donna Quadri-Felitti, CHDM,PHD, Director and Associate Professor, Pennsylvania State University
  • Chris Rockett, SVP Sales, Milestone Internet Marketing
  • Darlene Rondeau, Vp, Best Practices, Online Merchandising, Leonardo
  • Mariana Safer, CHDM, Senior Vice President, Marketing, HeBS Digital
  • Kevin Scholl, CHDM, Director of Digital Marketing, Red Roof Inn
  • Dave Spector, Partner, Tambourine
  • Dan Wacksman, CHDM, Senior Vice President, Global Distribution, Outrigger Resorts
  • Christine Beuchert Williams, Sr. Director of Marketing & Ecommerce Strategy, Marcus Hotels & Resorts

[i]U.S. Department of Justice, ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments, 2007. Chapter 5: Website Accessibility Under Title II of the ADA.

Categories: Marketing, Digital
Insight Type: Articles