Telling organisations that their websites are inaccessible

When you encounter a website that has accessibility problems, it can be a good idea to contact the organisation behind the website to let them know about the problem and encourage them to fix it. To help make this a little easier, the W3C WAI has published a draft document called Contacting Organizations about Inaccessible Websites.

The document contains tips, discusses different approaches, and includes a few sample e-mails to show you what a message describing an accessibility problem can look like. Shawn Lawton Henry talks about the initiative a bit more in Take a few minutes to encourage web accessibility. You can make a difference. on the W3C Blog.

I think it’s very important to contact organisations with inaccessible websites. They might not be aware of the problem. Even if they are, the more feedback they get about it the likelier they are to fix it.

In her blog post Shawn says this, which is something you should keep in mind:

Just yelling at your computer isn’t going to get the accessibility barriers fixed. Just complaining on a blog or other place where the organization won’t see it isn’t likely to help.

I know from personal experience that it can be hard to stay calm and avoid making your message more confrontational than it needs to be (which I have been guilty of more than once), but I think you are more likely to get the results you want by being as positive as the situation allows. This is emphasised in the WAI document:

When contacting an organization about accessibility, consider what approach will get the results you want. The tone of your emails, phone calls, and other communications will impact how people react and respond.

Often it is best when you first contact an organization to assume that they don’t know about the accessibility barriers on their website. Based on their response and what you learn about the organization’s position on accessibility, you can adjust your approach and choose follow up actions that are likely to be most effective.

Contacting Organizations about Inaccessible Websites is currently a draft published for public review. If you have comments or suggestions, either post them to the W3C Blog entry or send them to wai-eo-editors@w3.org by February 3, 2010.

Posted on January 13, 2010 in Accessibility

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