Being an avid traveler, I read a quote by Anais Nin- “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls”- which got me thinking that while traveling is a journey taken by us to explore and access different places and other lives, it should actually “explore other lives”, the lives who are unable to access the amenities that are supposedly available to all. The people with special needs are the ones for whom traveling needs to become hassle-free. And in this transforming digital age, the task begins from making travel websites and apps accessible.
While it is a fact that differently abled people prefer to book flights online, the application should ensure that they are digitally accessible. The task begins from making each and every aspect of the application accessible. It has long been mandated to follow the guidelines laid down in Section 508 and WCAG but there still is a long way to go to ensure ideal accessibility, where even the government should enforce these guidelines along with having organizations like us in place to perform testing and certify whether the accessibility requirements are being met by other organizations or not. The application should ensure that every control have an appropriate name/label and image having correct alt text associated with them to make bookings easier for people with special needs.
What if it lacks in these basic provisions, how will the differently abled people access the credentials with a screen reader or via keyboard controls? Taking into consideration all forms of disabilities, whether it be visual impairment or cognitive challenges, the sites should ensure that they cover all and provide the needful. In this given space, the task of testers increases simultaneously wherein they have to perform a thorough check of all the controls on the application. And what better is it to perform testing than with the differently abled people themselves who can provide a real user feedback. What we have been following since years is the paired testing approach to ensure that all malfunctionalities can be quashed with the help of both, a sighted and a non-sighted engineer. But testing can only begin when travel becomes digitally accessible. For instance, many a times it happens that a differently abled person is unable to avail the discounts offered on an application as it is inaccessible to him or her, or even when the captcha cannot be ingressed in order to continue further processes.
Therefore, it is important to make all the major flows accessible which may include many more, such as selecting the location and the destination, preferable dates, class for flights, rental companies for car hire, checkout page etc. And to avoid making an assistive technology user dependant on someone’s help, the application should ensure paying due consideration to these important features. Therefore, it is important to make all products accessible, especially in the travel domain- not just for the destination but for “all lives” too.