Conference talk: ADA accessible transit websites

bus schedule page with image of timetable and route mapPublic transportation serves everyone, but it is especially important for people with disabilities.

Transit agencies have been at the forefront of implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since the beginning. I know how seriously they take their role as a transportation providers for everyone

The accommodations that have received the most time and attention have all been operational – they mostly involve the physical act of taking a bus ride.

What about when someone with a disability wants to plan a bus trip in advance, or needs to lookup a schedule on the fly, when plans change en route? That’s why our websites need to be accessible to everyone, 24-7.

The text of the web page pictured here talks about compliance with the ADA – by offering bus service beyond established bus stops. But the route schedule itself is an image, not text on a web page.  For someone who can’t see, there’s no schedule information on this website.

I was on my way by bike and bus to Port Angeles earlier this year when I came across this issue on the Jefferson Transit website. For the next leg of my trip, I had to download the Clallam Transit schedule PDF on my smart phone, and then try to read it.

That experience prompted my presentation at the State Public Transportation Conference last month: “ADA Accessible Transit Websites.”

My faith that transit professionals care about this issue was reinforced. The top executives of several transit agencies were in the audience, along with communications staff, and staff at rural agencies with four office staff total.

There was also a lot of fear and uncertainty in the room. People want to do the right thing, but it can be hard to know where to start. Especially when you rely on non-transit technical staff to provide your website design and IT support.

User-centered design can help prioritize scarce resources. In the case of transit, what website users care about most is bus schedule information. That’s where I encourage transit agencies to focus their ADA accessibility efforts.

Big improvements in your website aren’t out of reach. I met with Everett Transit at the beginning of the summer about their online bus schedules, which were provided as inaccessible images and PDFs. By their August service change, they had converted every route schedule into an online table – information that is now easier for everyone to read on their website.

There is always more to do to improve a website’s ADA accessibility. Start with being aware of the issue and focusing on what your customers want most.

Accessibility Resources: