How to Tell Organizations Their Website is Inaccessible

    Craig Buckler
    Craig Buckler

    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