How to Tell Organizations Their Website is Inaccessible

website frustrationDevelopers who visit SitePoint are some of the most conscientious on the web. However, you may be surprised to learn there are people out there who avoid accessibility, shun standards, put down progressive enhancement, and undervalue usability. I’m afraid it’s true. For every lovingly-crafted accessible site, there are hundreds of shocking examples which prevent access to sectors of the web community. We’ve all seen sites which:

  • break keyboard navigation or enforce the use of a mouse
  • use small and illegible text which is impossible to set to a larger size
  • implement forms or page controls which fail without JavaScript
  • have designs or color combinations which are difficult to read
  • use distracting animations, or
  • break in any browser other than the one that organization uses.

Few developers consider accessibility. Their clients aren’t aware of the implications, the benefits seem inconsequential (it’s only about blind people, right?), few users notice any problems, and it’s normally low down or missing from the list of priorities.

Fortunately, the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has released a guidance document for anyone who wants to contact an organization about their website’s accessibility problems. Although it’s aimed at general users, Contacting Organizations about Inaccessible Websites provides information which could be useful to agencies and freelancers who want to approach a company about improving their shoddy site.

The document contains advice such as:

  • Considering your approach and what you want to achieve.
  • How to identify the key contacts within the organization.
  • Describing the accessibility problems.
  • Where to find accessibility information resources.
  • Requesting replies and making follow-up calls.
  • Sample emails.

I doubt the document will change many people’s attitude, but it might help raise the profile of web accessibility and could provide organizations with a reason to investigate issues further.

Have you contacted an organization about their inaccessible website? Did they do anything to resolve the problem? Or was your request ignored?

Image credit: Tim Stubbs

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  • Peter

    I was going to do a study for my university dissertation which reviewed the accessibility of a cross section of websites. About 2 weeks into it though i realised that there is pretty much no such thing as an accessible website, just different levels of inaccessibility.
    I’m all for web standards, and raising the profile of certain practices which make it less difficult for people with disabilities to make use of information on the internet, but the WCAG and associated documents need a major overhaul to make them remotely readable and understandable to the everyday developer.
    IMHO poor support and documentation for developers, poor quality of tools, along with the extremely low quality of teaching (atleast in the uk) is responsible for the poor levels of accessibility seen on 99% of the websites out there.
    Getting people to point the finger at those who are doing it wrong isn’t going to solve the problem.

  • http://www.auroraequine.com techmichelle

    Check out this thread http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=656649&highlight=accessibility for more suggestions and ideas and input from sitepoint members forum.