*Please note: we are not lawyers and this is not legal advice.
Your website needs to be accessible to people with disabilities or you could face a lawsuit—but what does that mean?
Numerous local businesses are being sued as their websites are not coded to be read by screen readers and to be used by people with various disabilities. In addition, a number of independent lodging properties have received demand letters citing failure to adequately describe their accessibility features on their website.
In order for your website to be considered accessible, it must satisfy these two requirements:
1. Your website must meet WCAG 2.1 AA Standards.
2. Your website also must meet the American’s with Disabilities Act 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(e)(1) as it relates to lodging properties. Which means you must DESCRIBE your accessibility features.
Did you know the IRS will pay $5,000 for Website Accessibility?
Thanks to the IRS Code Section 44, Disabled Access Credit, businesses who make accommodations to make their businesses accessible to persons with disabilities—including increasing their website accessibility—can qualify for a $5,000 tax credit. Businesses can claim the credit using the Disabled Access Credit on IRS Form 8826.
Who qualifies for the tax credit?
Small businesses like you! Your business is eligible for the tax credit if 1. You had $1 million or less in gross receipts for the preceding tax year OR 2. You had 30 or fewer full-time employees during the preceding tax year. For more information on eligibility, visit the EEOC website.
Shortcuts to accessible code do not exist – adding a tool to read your website does not make it accessible.
Although adding a tool like AccessiBe or Userway to your website may show a good faith effort toward compliance. Blind people and disability advocates are sueing people who use tools like Accessebe without actually making the code-compliant – read this article from NBC on the lawsuits against automated accessiblity tools. Case law has established that we should make a reasonable effort to comply with WCAG coding practices. It’s important to work with a professional company that has developers trained in the WCAG 2.1 standards and learn for yourself what makes a website code accessible.
How do you describe your accessibility features?
Here are some questions that you can answer which will help people with disabilities make a decision on whether they can use your property:
Do you offer wheelchair access? Which amenities, rooms, bathrooms and entrances are wheelchair accessible? Do you have power-assisted doors, wheelchairs or portable stools available? Do you permit motorized wheelchairs? Are the entrances wide enough for wheelchairs? Are restrooms wheelchair accessible? Where are the wheelchair accessible restrooms located? Do you have elevators, where are they located? Is there a permanent or removable seat in the shower? Is there step-free access to the bathrooms? Do you have ramp access self operating lifts or sloped entryways? If so, where? Do you have handicap accessible parking spaces? Visit: https://www.ada.gov/ for more information.
Blind or Low Vision Accommodations
Are service dogs welcome? Where can they relieve themselves? Do you have any braille signage? Do you have a staff member who would be willing to assist the visitor in getting to know your property or location? If you have passport type keys do you offer the service of placing tape on the card to show them how to lock or unlock their room? Do you offer auxiliary aids such as readers. Learn more here at the American Federation of the Blind website: www.afb.org
Individuals Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Do you offer assistive listening devices or have someone on staff who knows sign language? Do you have closed captioned television? Do you have TDD for telephones? Contact: https://www.nad.org/ for more information and recommendations.
For hotels: If you have accessible rooms in your hotel, how can you describe them?
Do the rooms have lowered peepholes, lever door handles or adjustable clothes rods? Do you have closed-captioned TV, tub grab bars, lever tub fixtures or hand held shower heads? How high are your toilet seats, roll-in showers, is the interior spacious enough for easier access to the bed?
For hotels: answer the following on your accessibility page
- accessibility of your public entrance;
- route from the accessible public entrance to the registration area;
- route from the accessible public entrance to the accessible guestrooms;
- route from the accessible public entrance to all areas where food and beverages are sold;
- accessible guest rooms with mobility features have doorways that provide 32” of clear width;
- accessibility of all hotel amenities and rooms
- registration desk, ballrooms, meeting rooms, swimming pools, restaurants etc.. shall also state whether they meet the 1991 accessibility standards and if not how not.
- the Property has a TTY for guest use; and
- the Property’s guest room televisions have closed captioning or closed captioning decoders are provided.
Know the Law: American’s with Disabilities Act 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(e)(1)
(1) Reservations made by places of lodging.A public accommodation that owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of lodging shall, with respect to reservations made by any means, including by telephone, in-person, or through a third party –
(i) Modify its policies, practices, or procedures to ensure that individuals with disabilities can make reservations for accessible guest rooms during the same hours and in the same manner as individuals who do not need accessible rooms;
(ii) Identify and describe accessible features in the hotels and guest rooms offered through its reservations service in enough detail to reasonably permit individuals with disabilities to assess independently whether a given hotel or guest room meets his or her accessibility needs;
(iii) Ensure that accessible guest rooms are held for use by individuals with disabilities until all other guest rooms of that type have been rented and the accessible room requested is the only remaining room of that type;
(iv) Reserve, upon request, accessible guest rooms or specific types of guest rooms and ensure that the guest rooms requested are blocked and removed from all reservations systems; and
(v) Guarantee that the specific accessible guest room reserved through its reservations service is held for the reserving customer, regardless of whether a specific room is held in response to reservations made by others.
Need help making your website WCAG 2.1 accessible?
In order to protect your business from a lawsuit, your hotel website should be evaluated for its accessibility to people with disabilities. If you’re looking for assistance in this review and help making your website WCAG 2.1 accessible, our team of programmers is here to help. We’re passionate about making your website accessible to all to the best of our abilities!
Looking for more resources on website accessibility?
Check out the accessibility section of our blog for more information!