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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