December 12, 2015 marked the date that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) regulation went into effect, requiring all aviation websites be accessible to everyone to “ensure that passengers with disabilities have equal access to the same air travel-related information and services that are available to passengers without disabilities through airline websites and airport kiosks”. This means that the DOT was requiring the airlines to have independent audits performed on their websites, and make the necessary remediation to ensure people who use assistive technology such as screen readers, could use the sites equally and without difficulty. They were given two years to get the core travel information and services to conform to WCAG 2.0 AA.
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility (BoIA) tested some of the leading carrier sites in March of 2014 and found that most sites scored a dismal grade of D.
So, how are they all doing now almost two years later?
Most have made some progress, with JetBlue, Virgin America and Delta improving by a full grade or more. The four carriers with sites that are currently registering a grade of D, (plus or minus) and still have the most work still left to do are Sun Country, Alaska Air, American Airlines and United. According to Christian Antkowiak, attorney with the firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, PC, “baby steps forward are better than no steps, and even if firms like BoIA can just keep nudging industries along, as the DOT did to the airline industry, eventually the Internet will become a more accessible place for everyone.”
Attorney Antkowiak, who regularly defends companies against allegations arising from website accessibility claims, notes the recent increase in website accessibility litigation nationwide means course correction isn’t simply a moral obligation for employers, but one that could save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and expenses.