Big Interview: Why baking in principals of accessibility makes sense in travel tech design

Big Interview: Why baking in principals of accessibility makes sense in travel tech design

Philp Martin of communication and design agency DMA speaks to Lee Hayhurst about work on new accessibility e-learning courses it has completed with travel tech giant Amadeus

Philp Martin of communication and design agency DMA speaks to Lee Hayhurst about work on new accessibility e-learning courses it has completed with travel tech giant Amadeus

One of the often-repeated mantras today related to best practice in user experience and design in digital is to ‘keep it simple’.

In a complex sector like travel with its many moving parts, and in a world dominated by mobile, taking the complicated and making it simple for end users is all the more important.

And when you consider that we are living through an era of an ageing population bubble of relatively affluent, time-rich consumers with a high propensity to travel, ease of access looks even more important.

It is for these reasons that European travel technology giant Amadeus has committed itself to embedding this principal in all the systems and technologies it builds and designs.

The firm has worked in partnership with Brighton-based creative agency DMA Partners to create a new e-learning programme for its staff on how to code and design to make travel accessible for all.

Philip Martin, managing partner of DMA, said its work with Amadeus has been a “real eye-opener”, not just in how to design for people with disabilities but to optimise user experience for everyone.

“Whenever you see a really good website, which is amazing, but you don’t appreciate it eliminates a certain percentage of the population from using it,” he said.

“Around 15% of the global population will have some sort of disability and yet more and more we are pushing people towards mobile phones and you forget that not everyone is able to use them.

“We want to instil in developers the idea that before they design an interface they need to take into consideration if it’s accessible to people in a digital way.

“A lot of developers are young, in their twenties, and starting out in their careers in Amadeus and they are given a project and want to build something sexy.

“But accessibility should not be something that is built in at the end of the project, because either it won’t be done or is too costly, it’s about designing this in at the front end, testing it early on.

“Making it part of the process means websites will get better and maybe it will improve the user experience for everyone, including people with no accessibility challenges.

“Working on this project with Amadeus was rewarding and, as we put together the learning modules, it was a great learning curve for us.”

DMA worked on the project with an Amadeus employee based in its Nice development hub who has impaired vision and is “passionate about accessibility”, said Martin.

The work comes on the back of a report Amadeus published earlier this year entitled ‘Voyage of Discovery – working towards inclusive and accessible travel for all’.

The report set out the context of Amadeus’s work on accessibility in a world in which 20% of people will be aged over 65 by 2050, and 50% will have some form of disability.

“Over the past 30 years, travel has undergone a revolution that has brought it within the reach of hundreds of millions more people.

“The rise of low-cost options, the ubiquity of the internet and sharing platforms have created unprecedented demand and choice.

“In turn more people are visiting more destinations than ever before. One demographic that is yet to truly benefit from this democratisation of travel: people with accessibility needs.

“Millions of people with accessibility needs around the world want to travel more, be better connected, and have greater variety of personalised travel services and destinations.

“Above all, they want to be considered as travellers first, with the ability to plan, search, book and purchase their travel independently.”

The Amadeus report looks at accessibility issues in the three main phases of travel: pre-booking and booking, in-transit, and in-destination.

In trying to address issues in all these areas DMA and Amadeus identified four broad areas of disability in which they could make a difference: Partial sightedness and blindness, hard of hearing or deaf, cognitive and motor skills.

Martin said, as well as focusing on how to develop for accessibility, the project has enabled Amadeus itself to increase the diversity in its workforce.

“They already had quite a few people with disabilities working there and we were using them to test things.

“It means that they can hire different people with different abilities because they have more equipment at work.”

The accessibility training modules are now being rolled and Martin said Amadeus staff will be able use them as part of their career development.

Martin said baking in principals of accessibility to core travel industry systems like those supplied by Amadeus, will ensure they are disseminated throughout the sector. “In the end it comes down to simply good practice,” he said.

“Design will be changed and tweaked a little bit because firms like Amadeus will be thinking about people who are potentially missing out. Websites are often created by the young, but used by older people.

“And it’s becoming harder because 100% of 18 to 25-year-olds are on mobile and that’s who they are charging after when they design technology.

“But they are not necessarily the people who are booking holidays on a regular basis. However, as things move forward, the principal of keeping it simple and accessible is perfect for mobile.”

More: Read Amadeus’s Voyage of Discovery report