This bug has been mentioned previously to VTEC but as it impacts visually impared people it deserves some extra highlighting. This issue has been there since at least the official launch on 1st August 2017. Not only did I raise it, but others have also raised this issue on Twitter and so far no progress has been made to resolve it.
But I wanted to buy it today as I wouldn't have time tomorrow. Ps the new booking site is NOT disability accessible. I've bought it now
— Judith Parker (@JudithParker2) August 18, 2017
it shows poor accessibility testing from the web team. its not also the first time this has happened. it happened when 1/2
— sidney tambin (@sidneytambin) August 25, 2017
As I'm not a frontend developer (I work on the things behind the scenes that you'd never see but without them there'd be no functionality) I'm not 100% sure about web accessibility but I do know that those with visual impairments have difficulty accessing graphics intensive websites and those with complex structures like a ticket booking website.
When GNER launched WebTIS in 2007, they provided a text based alternative which is more accessible to those using assistive technologies. They proudly proclaimed it was 'Shaw Trust, user tested'. The website was, at launch, designed to be accessible for people with disabilities.
The accessible version of WebTIS is still available to users of sites that still use this software including GWR, TransPennine Express, SWR, Chiltern and cwc.
The VTEC website at first glance has an accessible search. It's not visible to users of regular web browsers, but is a hidden link accessible to users of assistive software.
The link is labelled 'Buy Tickets Accessible Search' but when you click it you're taken to a completely unrelated page on the Great Northern Website!
Steps to reproduce
Assuming you don't have any accessibility tools you need to visit one of the pages the booking engine is on (e.g. https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/buy-tickets/booking-engine/) and then view the source code of the page and search for accessible search.
You will see the following code:
This means anyone with accessibility requirements will be sent to a random page on the Great Northern website, assuming the Great Northern website is accessible (I've not checked) then they can buy tickets from there, but I doubt VTEC planned to redirect customers to a 3rd party site without any warning they were doing so.
It's hard to say for certain. Does the VTEC have an accessible booking engine and they've somehow provided the wrong link? Was the Great Northern site developed by the same company and they accidentally hardcoded this URL in there (seems unlikely as the GN site appears differently)? Did some developer/project manager decided as a deadline was approaching to just stick an 'accessible booking tool' link in the document and hope that it got past the testers?
I doubt we'll ever know the answer. But is disappointing that we can add accessible booking to the list of things the old website had at launch in 2007 which the new one didn't think was launch critical.
I had hoped when other people mentioned disabled accessibility on Twitter they would have considered this a high priority.