The European Commission recently held an engaging Workshop on Accessibility of Products and Services, presenting the concrete aspects of accessibility and the high-level business case for providing accessible products and services. Various stakeholders, from the EU and the USA, both from the public and private sector, joined to talk about accessibility legislation, policies and products and services in the areas covered by the current proposal for a European Accessibility Act. I had the opportunity to participate, representing Amadeus on the Transport panel and share our views.
Our unique position at the crossroads of travel and technology has empowered us with a major role in helping the travel industry to develop accessible travel solutions. These solutions enable travellers with disabilities to access a complete and satisfactory travel experience. This poses an opportunity for all travel players as there is great value in accessible travel and tourism and its potential as a driver of inclusive and sustainable growth.
Themes of the Workshop
Throughout the workshop there were several recurring themes. It was stressed that the optimal approach to accessibility was building it in during the design phase of products or services and using it as a means to drive innovation rather than viewing it as a hindrance. This was how we approached the redesign of the user interface for our flagship Amadeus e-Retail solution to meet Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standards.
Our Amadeus e-Retail solution is the world’s most widely used airline internet booking engine, powering the websites of over 100 airlines. At present, we’ve migrated over 50 airlines to the new user interface, Amadeus e-Retail DX Digital Experience, which makes airline websites easier to navigate for people with disabilities and allows our customers to achieve compliance with the international standard WCAG 2.0.
During the redesign, we faced a number of challenges in creating a solution that met these standards. We also had to consider them in every aspect of the new interface – from thoroughly assessing our old user experience to training our developers, designers, and QA analysts to be more aware of accessibility requirements. Indeed, the need to include accessibility in the education system for engineers and architects alike was another recurring theme across all industries during the workshop. We shared the experience of users with visual and cognitive impairments who tested the new user interface. This resulted in a round of spontaneous applause from the audience, made up of policy-makers, accessibility experts and disabled persons.
Overall, I was impressed by the workshop’s discussions and it left me optimistic that the travel industry can be a catalyst in championing accessibility which can also be a force for innovation and usability for all. I was able to share a few clear messages with politicians and policy-makers shaping the European Accessibility Act, that as a technology provider we welcome common standards to WCAG 2.0 so that standardisation across regions can be achieved efficiently for the benefit of all players.
At Amadeus, we take accessibility seriously and a forthcoming whitepaper, that we hope stimulates industry debate, will cover this pressing issue in more depth – so stay tuned to this blog for updates.