With the recent spike in lawsuits, it only makes sense to know what to do if your hotel receives a compliance lawsuit of its own. To add context to this issue, it's first worth highlighting a few recent examples.
At the start of this year, a Fort Lauderdale woman and her attorney reached settlements with at least 20 hotels and motels in Florida because their websites' reservations systems "failed to provide any information regarding the accessibility of the hotel or rooms".
In a separate case last year, Avanti Hotel in Palm Springs was accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because its website was deemed as inaccessible to people with seeing or hearing problems. For the hotel to address the issue and make its website ADA compliant, it will cost about $3,000. Payment in damages to the plaintiff is reported to be an additional $8,000-20,000.
The surge in lawsuits is partly due to a lack of clarification around ADA, which was enacted back in 1990, before the rise of the internet. The law only provided the requirements for businesses' physical locations to properly accommodate disabled individuals but didn't provide any guidance for the internet, or web-based and mobile applications. Instead, hoteliers have to make their best judgment based on the suggested guidelines from the Worldwide Web Consortium or W3C — the governing body of the web.
If a website does not meet these guidelines, it risks being on the recipient end of a compliance lawsuit. Yet businesses, including hotels, remain confused and continue to feel vulnerable by the overall lack of clarity. For that reason, we recommend having a plan that mitigates the risk of an ADA-related complaints, and being aware of the steps required
Below, we've outlined the three key steps to take if your hotel finds itself on the receiving end of a website-related ADA compliance lawsuit.
1. Seek legal adviceIf your hotel receives notice that it's being sued for violation of the ADA, get in contact with a lawyer. Choose an expert who specializes in ADA compliance and Internet Law.
2. Get a website auditAfter getting in touch with a lawyer, you'll need to carry out a website audit. An audit will help you to identify if your website doesn't meet any of the accessibility guidelines set out by the W3C. There are plenty of audit tools available. If you're on a budget, you can use free-to-use options, such as Lighthouse, which can be added within the Chrome browser.
However, bear in mind that the free version of Lighthouse won't fix any issues it uncovers — you'll have to do this yourself or ask your digital marketing agency to carry out the fixes for you.
Premium tools offer a more comprehensive audit process. At Travel Tripper, our ADA Compliance auditing and monitoring platform is specifically designed for hotel websites. It includes automated scans, manual testing using accessibility tools, and testing across multiple desktop and mobile browsers, all of which helps guests to navigate your website and complete a booking.
3. Update your websiteAfter the audit is complete, you can start making any necessary changes to your website. Even if the lawsuit never makes it to court, your hotel website still needs to be ADA compliant — most obviously to help avoid further lawsuits. Of course, the main reason is that ensuring your website is accessible to anyone with a disability is clearly the right thing to do and shows respect and care for your guests.
It's actually relatively straightforward to make sure your hotel website is ADA compliant. Here are some of the main areas to consider:
For more in-depth information on this topic, read our comprehensive post to ensure your hotel website is ADA compliant or sign up for our webinar about how to mitigate the risk of compliance lawsuits. In the meantime, stay tuned for the final post in this series where we'll provide hoteliers with an essential checklist for ADA compliance.
Travel Tripper & Pegasus can work with you to ensure your hotel website conforms to standards of ADA compliance. Request a consultation today to get more information and support!
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Nate is the Senior Director of Digital Platforms at Travel Tripper and oversees website design and development, digital strategy, SEO, inbound marketing, and email marketing for a growing portfolio of global hotel clients. He's an avid mountain biker, a coffee and craft beer enthusiast, and a proud family man.
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