[Travel & Tour World] Interview w/ iSeatz 's Accessibility Specialist

This article was originally published by Travel And Tour World. You can read it on their site here.

In an exclusive interview with Travel And Tour World, Zivile Goodwin, a CPACC-certified Accessibility Specialist and Software Engineer at iSeatz, shares her insights into the evolving landscape of digital accessibility in travel and tourism. With her extensive expertise, Zivile discusses the challenges and opportunities in making travel platforms more inclusive for all users. She also highlights innovative solutions and best practices for ensuring accessibility in software development, offering a unique perspective on how the industry can enhance user experiences for travelers with disabilities. Join us as we delve into Zivile’s visionary approach to accessibility in the travel sector.

Travel And Tour World: How do you quantify the market opportunity for enhancing accessibility within travel loyalty programs, and what steps can companies take to effectively tap into this underserved segment?

Zivile Goodwin: Quantifying the opportunity for enhancing accessibility within travel loyalty programs involves understanding its potential impact on market growth and customer engagement. Including features that accommodate individuals with disabilities can capture an additional 20% of the market, as that is the percentage of the population with some form of disability. Excluding these features risks losing this same market share.

Accessibility can also enhance customer loyalty in ways that might not be immediately visible. For instance, as loyal customers age, ensuring technology adapts to their changing needs can maintain and even deepen their loyalty, preventing them from feeling excluded due to technological barriers. This includes addressing challenges related to low vision, mobility issues, tremors, and memory concerns. Communicating the accessibility features available within the loyalty program and associated travel services ensures that all customers, regardless of their abilities, can make informed decisions and fully enjoy the benefits offered.

This approach can help loyalty programs tap into the significant spending power of the baby boomer generation, who still retain over 50% of wealth in the U.S., have a penchant for travel and are reaching more advanced years. By removing barriers and friction, travel brands can retain their ongoing loyalty as they age, aligning with their continued desire to engage with digital products and services despite potential obstacles they may face.

Adjusting something as small as a button might seem trivial, but these changes can have significant effects. Even though these modifications might not alter the core experience for the majority, they greatly enhance it for those with disabilities.

Travel And Tour World: Could you describe the critical components of an effective accessibility-centric design and development process for travel platforms? How can organizations ensure these practices are integrated from the outset for long-term success?

Zivile Goodwin: Incorporating accessibility early in the product development process—before product ideation and during the design phase—is vital as it reduces costs and fosters innovation right from the start. At this stage, the focus is on user experience, testing prototypes rather than fully developed products, and learning from these trials to refine the design.

Design choices are responsible for approximately 67% of accessibility issues, often because the industry follows well-recognized patterns that may inadvertently exclude some users. Challenging these conventional patterns can lead to innovations that maintain the experience for existing users and significantly improve it for those with different needs. This shift requires developers to learn and integrate new patterns and better practices, effectively rewiring their approach to design. While this change can be challenging, it is essential for creating more inclusive products.

Critical strategies for implementing an effective, accessibility-focused design include:

Addressing contrast issues for web accessibility, especially considering that 1 in 12 men are born with color blindness. This also extends to individuals with low vision, often due to aging.

Avoid small fonts to ensure that all users can easily read and interact with necessary forms, which are essential for completing transactions.

Simplify web interfaces to facilitate quick searches and bookings that can ideally be completed within five minutes. Effective design includes creating straightforward search forms and clear results while minimizing content overload that can deter users.

Integrate payment systems like Apple Pay or Google Pay to streamline the booking process. Allowing users to utilize pre-saved information for transactions improves accessibility, increases user satisfaction, and reduces errors.

Travel And Tour World: What are the main drawbacks and limitations of adopting a “check-the-box” approach to accessibility in digital platforms, especially within the travel industry?

Zivile Goodwin: Accessibility standards and regulations, such as WCAG 2.1 AA compliance, constantly evolve. Companies that adopt a “check-the-box” approach aiming to meet minimum legal standards may continually lag as new regulations emerge. WCAG should be considered an essential guide—it establishes the minimum requirements but represents the floor, not the ceiling, of accessibility.

Relying solely on this “bare minimum” approach does not guarantee full accessibility and can lead to digital platforms that remain inaccessible for some users. As a result, companies risk not only legal actions, especially in heavily regulated sectors like travel, but also poor user experiences and potential loss of customers.

Additionally, the reliance on third-party accessibility widgets, often visible as floating icons on content, are publicly linked to their users, making companies that use them targets for potential lawsuits.

Beyond compliance, truly embracing accessibility can drive innovation, incentivizing companies to develop more inclusive products and services that enhance user experiences for everyone. This forward-thinking approach opens new markets and builds brand loyalty, transforming accessibility into a strategic advantage.

Travel And Tour World: In what ways does inclusive design benefit not just users with disabilities but all digital users? How can inclusive design principles enhance user experience and satisfaction across travel platforms?

Zivile Goodwin: Accessibility is fundamentally about inclusivity, ensuring that individuals with disabilities have equal access to the same innovations and technology available to the general population. The issues may vary in scale, but the underlying principles of access and engagement remain consistent across different technologies and sectors. The goal is to make a concerted effort to include this group from the beginning, ensuring they can engage with and benefit from new technologies as others do. This strategy involves breaking down perceived barriers and extending accessibility to all users. Inclusive design encourages creativity and innovation by challenging designers to think beyond traditional norms and consider diverse perspectives. This often leads to developing novel solutions and features that benefit all users, driving continued improvement in user experience.

Inclusive design principles prioritize clear, simple, and consistent design, making interfaces easier for all users to navigate. This benefits users with disabilities and those who may be less tech-savvy. When digital platforms are designed inclusively, they become accessible to a broader audience, including those with temporary disabilities (such as a broken arm) or situational limitations (such as poor internet connectivity). This expanded reach can result in a more diverse user base and increased business opportunities for travel platforms.

Travel And Tour World: Moving beyond compliance, how can travel companies foster a culture that genuinely values and prioritizes accessibility? What role does leadership play in championing this shift towards more inclusive digital experiences?  

Zivile Goodwin: Like other DEI initiatives, accessibility requires top-level buy-in to be sustainable. Without solid support from leadership, efforts may lead to burnout due to inadequate support. Commitment to accessibility should include allocating a budget, hiring specialists, and, most importantly, hiring people with disabilities as genuine contributors. Over time, the goal for accessibility should be a seamless integration into a company’s processes, where it becomes a natural part of operations. Rather than perceiving this as a financial burden, it should be considered an investment that produces economic benefits and long-term sustainability.

For example, a study on travelers with wheelchairs by The Century Foundation provided compelling data that underscores the economic potential of investing in accessibility:

About 70% of participants surveyed had avoided airline travel in recent years due to accessibility concerns.

A large majority expressed willingness to spend on more accessible air travel. Notably, 30.2% of participants were willing to spend between $501–$1,000 annually, while over half (52.2%) would spend more than $1,000 yearly on more accessible air travel options.

This data highlights that improved accessibility can open substantial market opportunities and increase revenue.

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You can also learn more about iSeatz by reaching out to marketing@iseatz.com.