In the Spring of 2021, AZDS, a leading digital agency for luxury travel brands, approached Avatria to partner with AZDS for an Accessibility audit of one of AZDS' clients: a luxury hotel company with multiple brands and locations across the United States. Web accessibility lawsuits grew 23% in 2020, with luxury retail and hospitality brands targeted at a disproportionate rate. As such, AZDS and their client sought to proactively perform an Accessibility audit to ensure compliance with the latest Web Content Accessibility Group (WCAG) guidelines.
- Vulnerability Audit
- Site Audit
- Methodology Audit
Through the Vulnerability Audit, Avatria looked at the client’s site to answer the following questions:
- What digital properties and other web content does the client own?
- Is the client being sued, or is there potential to be sued?
- What is the relevant legislation and what standards do the client’s properties need to meet in order to be compliant?
Answering these questions provided the scope for the engagement, and also helped prioritize the work. While there were no active lawsuits against the client, the luxury hospitality industry has seen a large number of Accessibility lawsuits, in part because there are additional legal requirements for hotels. As a place of public accommodation, hotels must offer accessible rooms that are navigable by wheelchairs, and these rooms and other hotel accessibility features should be featured on the hotel’s website. This unique requirement was added to the list of items to thoroughly review as part of the site audit.
Our baseline recommendation for accessibility compliance is that any client should meet WCAG 2.x AA guidelines. In this instance, however, we targeted WCAG 2.1 compliance, as it is the most recent version of WCAG and provides an extra level of protection for the client in the future. Additionally, we also checked the site against the WCAG 2.2 requirements to ensure future compliance when 2.2 is adopted at some point in 2021.
Our Site Audit uses a combination of scripted and manual processes. Scripting ensures coverage and repeatability across all web properties, while a manual audit is used confirm the results of the scripted audit and check requirements that cannot be automated (like logical tab order and general usability). While AZDS would be applying the required fixes to the site, we took a “development-centric” approach to the audit to ensure that the audit was easily interpreted by the AZDS development team. To do this, we broke down each accessibility violation into the following components:
- Description of the specific violation (including offending CSS class, tag, html metadata, or other specific details)
- Context for the requirement to provide the development team with information that may help with the overall solution
- Recommended solution
- Related resources, including best practice documentation as well as WCAG reference pages
It is common for accessibility issues to arise not only from the code, but also from content entered by business users. While these issues can be fixed, if the root cause isn’t addressed, new issues will continue to occur as the sites are updated. To address this concern, Avatria reviewed the client’s current content development methodology and processes. Our recommended changes sought to ensure that accessibility is at the forefront of all future development and content.
At the beginning of the assessment, the average accessibility score for the client’s web domain was 91/100, as measured using Google Lighthouse’s Accessibility scoring metric. After the audit and remediation of issues, that score increased to 100/100. Beyond the quantitative improvement of the site, the methodology audit provided should help the client avoid violations and protect against legal risk as they continue to update and expand their web presence.