Access to key information can be vitally important for keeping passengers up to date and safe when travelling, with train and station operators’ websites often the first point of call. Following work by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), a number of key steps have been taken to further improve accessibility to these websites.
Two separate reviews were undertaken by the rail regulator in 2020 to analyse compliance with website requirements for all 25 operators and led to a number of improvements being made.
Requirements included providing a source of relevant information on assisted travel on websites and working towards achieving the industry-recognised Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards.
These WCAG standards are designed to ensure websites can be read and easily used by disabled passengers.
The review by the ORR ensured content about accessible travel was easier to find by making it located in a clearly designated area of the operator’s website - including information related to temporary reductions in accessibility, details of any delays or disruptions to facilities and services.
Within the same review, operators were also encouraged to provide clear information on what redress may be owed to passengers who did not receive the assistance that they booked.
As part of carrying out the review, ORR worked with the Shaw Trust, a disability charity, to undertake technical assessments of compliance with WCAG standards for all 25 operators. It found that 11 of the 25 train and station operators had already carried out extensive work to ensure their websites met the industry standards prior to the review.
Several more used the exercise as an opportunity to accelerate pre-planned work.
The work carried out will mean all operators’ websites will be accessible to assistive technologies such as screen readers, all policy and guidance documents will be fully accessible, and sufficient colour contrast between text and the background will be applied across all web pages.
The response of operators and their efforts to date have been described as encouraging to the ORR, with plans to continue to monitor their commitments to complete the improvements by December 2021.
Stephanie Tobyn, ORR Deputy Director of Consumers, said: “Websites are incredibly important and often the starting point in a passenger’s journey. They help passengers plan and book their journey, including travel assistance and claim redress if necessary.
“Our review identified a number of areas for improvement, and we’re pleased that operators are responding promptly to our findings; making assisted travel content easier to find and working towards compliance with website accessibility standards sooner rather than later.
“This work to improve website accessibility sits alongside the ongoing training of front-line staff to better understand the needs of disabled passengers. These are both parts of our Accessible Travel Policy requirements which look to make improvements across all parts of a disabled passenger’s journey.”
As part of requirements set out in the ORR Accessible Travel Policy (ATP) Guidance, by the end of 2021, almost 30,000 passenger-facing staff will have undertaken disability awareness and equality training.