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What I'd Do
What I’d Do: Be the First Resort to Cater to a Market 8.5m Strong

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I sometimes feel I do too much critiquing and too little suggesting. Like, somehow, I’m the 400 pound, mullet-sporting guy on his 3rd beer at the baseball game yelling at the 3rd baseman to hustle. So, every once in a while on a Wednesday I’ll try to balance the scales a bit and put my own ideas up for display, analysis, and critique. (view all ‘WID’ posts).

I recently starting working part time with a local organization with a simple mission: help make the web accessible for the nearly 9 million people with disabilities that affect computer use. Think about that for a second, how would you navigate the internet if, say, you couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, or had physical disabilities that prevented you from using a mouse? What challenges would that raise? How differently would you think about your experience on the web?

Armed with a fresh outlook on this issue, I analyzed a handful of big name ski resorts for accessibility. All of them failed, and failed miserably. Hindenburg style. And, honestly, that’s putting it nicely.

The First Web Accessible Resort
Nearly 9% of Americans have a disability that inhibits their computer and internet use. Some of them may never ski due to those disabilities. A huge number, however, can…and do. If you can’t hear, you can still ski. If you can’t see, you can still ski (if you haven’t seen a blind skier, it is super cool to watch). If you have cognitive disabilities, you can still ski. Legally, many of the buildings and areas at your resort must be accessible for certain things, like wheelchairs. What I’d do is extend those accommodations and create the first ski resort website with content that is as accessible as possible..

Benefit #1 – Reach That Market
When you make your website accessible, you give those millions of people with disabilities a boost toward becoming skiers. As far as I can tell from current resort websites, they likely feel neglected. When you suddenly become the first resort to reach out to this market that previously felt shut out, imagine how this group would view your brand and any offers you put in front of them.

Benefit #2 – Branding
The first resort to make this push is going to reap some amazingly positive branding. Energy efficiency rocks, so do environment efforts, but imagine opening your content directly to millions of people that weeks before had no ability to do so. They’ll think your resort is awesome. So will everyone they tell.

Benefit #3 – PR
While this is honestly the right thing to do, the resort that makes this a priority can use this as a PR tool until they’re blue in the face. Being the first resort in anything is big. Being the first resort in something as socially responsible as this is huge.

Benefit #4 – SEO
For the most part, accessible websites rank higher in search results. Think about it, a person with some disability is basically using a computer to read your website content. Is the Google system of crawling websites any different? The better a computer can read your website, the better Google will be able to read it as well.

If I did this, I’d do it right. I wouldn’t just get it to pass a few web accessibility checkers and call it good, I’d wind up and knock it out of the park, training the entire web team on how to make sure any new content is accessible as the rest. I’d publicly announce our intentions, not only for the media coverage, but for the motivation of being held responsible to create an awesome setup.

So, that’s what I’d do…

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  • You're right on Gregg. The least we can all do is make sites that are W3C standards-compliant, using solid, semantic code and advise our clients how to structure their content properly. The benefits include accessibility, universal readability, and SEO value. I design resort sites and that's a huge challenge. But we're getting better with each project by focussing on writing minimal code and balancing high-impact branding material with good, honest bandwidth checks. Abandoning Flash was a huge step in that direction. Also using accessible nav (with clean JS and semantic unordered lists) helps. HTML5 also promises more context clues using new tags like "nav" and "footer" etc.

    Still, no resort has asked specifically to cater to people with disabilities, perhaps because we all think we're selling the "extreme lifestyle". In some cases, robust tools like Drupal are stalling the effort, generating fragmented code with 10x more lines of inefficient crap. </ rant>

    Certainly, some resorts have a large contingent of disabled guests. It would be very smart to jump on that. But education on the topic is slim, and too many people want a quick fix. Honestly, most resorts would just as soon shovel disabled guests off to their mobile site. Surely, there's a better way.

    Keep up the good work Gregg.

    • GreggBlanchard

      Joe, so good to hear that designers are getting on board with this stuff. Every point you made is spot on. I just hope that resorts take the initiative now rather than wait until they get in legal trouble for it like usually is the kick-in-the-butt that gets most companies to shape up. I really think the resort that really nails this could reap some amazing benefits for a lot of years.

      And awesome to see you stop by the blog, Joe. Your work is awesome and really sets the bar for resort website design. Keep it up.

      • Thanks Gregg. I'm working on a couple new ones now and (as always) I hope to blow the old ones away. This post will be on my mind the entire time. Really enjoy your blog.

        • GreggBlanchard

          Sweet, can't wait to see what you come up with.

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Ski Resort Website Redesign Checklist (Part 2 of 3) Do Research : Ski Resort Marketing -

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