Travel and Tourism Report, Summer 2014

Date published: 
29 Jul 2014

Little Holiday Cheer for Disabled People

Eleven of the UK’s top twelve holiday and airline sites are inaccessible to disabled and older customers. Sun, sea and sand are in short supply this summer for disabled and elderly people trying to research and book their holidays online, according to AbilityNet's e-nation report into travel and tourism websites. A decade after AbilityNet first reviewed the country’s top airlines for website accessibility and usability, it appears that little if anything has improved, despite huge advances in technology and provision for disabled people in general.

The full report includes the results form the tests and comments from the business concerned and is available to download below.

You can also view a webinar hosted by travel industry website tnooz in which Head of Digital Inclusion Robin Christopherson explains the reuslts and discussesd the implications for the travel industry.

state of the enation reports

Eleven out of twelve fail

We conducted tests on twelve of the UK's biggest carriers and holiday companies - British Airways, Carnival, Club Med, EasyJet, First Choice, Monarch, Qantas, Ryanair, Saga, STA Travel, Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic. Our report shows that just one met the base level of access requirements needed to research travel and accommodation options and make flight or holiday reservations. 

Of the remaining eleven companies, ten require immediate attention meaning that disabled users. On some sites users took over an hour to make their bookings and on others they were unable to complete the process altogether.

Commercial opportunities

The report’s author, Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet’s Head of Digital Inclusion, who is himself blind, says that as well as legal risks this is of significant commercial concern:

We last reviewed this sector ten years ago and little has changed in that time. This is a fiercely competitive market and it’s surprising to see leading players overlooking this opportunity to meet customer needs."

"There are 12 million disabled people and 10 million over 65s in the UK, with an estimated spending power of over £100 billion, yet many of them will have trouble using these websites to book flights and holidays. Many of the issues we’ve raised are easily fixed and it’s an obvious way to stand out from the competition.”

Sites were checked for compliance with globally recognised accessibility guidelines using automated tools, as well as by evaluating the experiences of a range of AbilityNet’s disabled user testers.  AbilityNet experts also looked for the presence of best practice accessibility help features to enable customers to access services more easily.

Real life tasks

The tester panel attempted to carry out typical real life tasks using the most commonly encountered access technologies.  These include magnification software and screen readers or text to speech software for the visually impaired and people with dyslexia, and for those with physical difficulties, using the keyboard instead of the mouse to navigate the screen. Other testers had hearing and dexterity issues common amongst older customers.

Only Club Med approached the level of accessibility needed to be legally compliant but all sites had some significant usability and design problems preventing disabled people from being able to effectively use their services. As well as the legal issues involved, this suggests that many providers could be turning away a very significant number of potential customers due to inaccessible processes on poorly designed websites.

The legal risk

The Law is clear on this issue as Kerren Daly, Partner at employment law specialists, DWF explain:

“There is a clear legal obligation on website owners to make 'reasonable adjustments' to ensure that they are accessible to disabled users set out in the Equality Act 2010 and confirmed in the subsequent Statutory Code of Practice.

“The industry standard guidelines issued by the World Wide Web Consortium have already been taken into account in discrimination cases brought by disabled users.  It goes without saying however that despite the legal obligation to do so, it simply makes good commercial sense to design your website in a way that ensures that it’s fully accessible to all users.”

The full report is available for download below

Contact AbilityNet

Please contact our team if you have any questions about the report:

Telephone: 0800 269 545                   


Download report in doc format: