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WAI: Strategies, guidelines, resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities

[Draft] How to Contact Organizations about Inaccessible Websites

Page Contents


Steps to help you report websites with accessibility problems are described on this page:

  1. Identify key contacts
  2. Describe the problem
  3. Follow-up as needed

Additional tips include:

Consider also contacting organizations that do a good job of making their website accessible and easy to use by people with disabilities and older users, to acknowledge and encourage their efforts.


Your feedback to an organization can help improve the accessibility of websites for you and many other users. Feedback from individuals with accessibility needs, disability organizations, and older people's organizations has resulted in improvements to websites in the past. While website owners often have many priorities for changes and improvements, the more an organization hears about accessibility from its visitors or customers, the more likely it is that this will become a higher priority. Just learning that some people are experiencing problems might be the motivation an organization needs to make the changes that will make a difference.

While most accessibility barriers are caused by poor website design, some accessibility barriers may be caused by problems in your web browser, your assistive technology, or the configuration of these. WAI will publish guidance on configuring your computer system to resolve some barriers in early 2010.

This document provides guidance on contacting organizations and informing them of accessibility barriers on their websites.

Note: In many countries websites are required to be accessible by national policies. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also confirms your right to access information and services via the Internet. Accessible websites additionally provide business benefits for website owners as well as improving the experience for people with and without disabilities.

Identify Key Contacts

Ideally, you may be able to identify the person or entity responsible for the web page or application that you are using, or someone who is responsible for the accessibility of the website. However, in many cases, your first step is to identify any contact information available to you. Some places on the website to find contacts include:

Note: Sometimes the links lead to e-mail addresses, at other times they lead to online forms or other information and mechanisms for contacting the organization.

If you cannot find contact information online, some other places to find contact points for an organization include:

Note: If you don't feel comfortable contacting an organization directly, consider raising the issue with an organization that supports people with disabilities, supports older people, or provides other support; they may be interested in contacting the organization.

Describe the Problem

This section provides guidance on describing the problems you are encountering. This includes describing where the problem occurred, what the problem is, and optionally providing information about your computer system that may help the organization to diagnose the problem.

Where is the Problem?

Provide information to help the organization identify the page or the part of the site you were on when you experienced the difficulties. Either give them the web address (also called URL), or a description of the page where the problem occurred.


Example of a web address (URL):
Example of a page description:
"I was on your services page and wanted to get to the XYZ service details"

What is the Problem?

Provide as much detail as you can about what you were trying to do, and what you are having difficulty with or cannot do. Also describe the steps you were taking before you encountered the problem, and the impact on your use of the website.


Examples of problem descriptions:

What Computer System are You Using?

Provide details about your computer to help the web developer to diagnose the problem. If you're unsure, maybe a friend, relative, or colleague can help you identify this information. If you don't know the details about your computer system, you can ignore this section.

In particular, include details about:

If relevant, provide information about specific settings (such as larger font sizes, mouse or keyboard configurations, or similar) or about assistive technology (such as screen reader or screen magnification software, or similar) that you may be using.


Examples of computer system descriptions:

Note: Never disclose personal information such as passwords. Do not provide any information about your computer that you are not comfortable disclosing.

Provide Pointers to Resources

Consider including the following references that may help developers who are unaware of Web accessibility requirements and standards:

Follow-Up as Needed

Responsible organizations will follow-up with you but sometimes you might need to follow-up with them. This section provides guidance on follow-up after your initial contact with the organization.

Be Available for Follow-up

The website developers may have further questions to help them diagnose and repair a problem. Be sure to provide the organization with contact details if you want them to follow-up with you directly with questions, and plan to be available for possible questions.

Keep Records for Further Follow-Up

Good records are useful for your exchange with the organization and especially if you need to take further action. In particular:

Getting a Response

Different organizations have different cultures and systems for managing correspondence and handling feedback and complaints. Some organizations can respond quickly, while others take longer because of their size or internal processes. However, an organization should always respond to an issue. If you are not receiving satisfactory responses within a reasonable timeframe, consider taking further action.

Note: There are different types of responses that you might receive:

  1. Acknowledgement: confirmation that your feedback or complaint has been received. Sometimes this confirmation is generated automatically, especially if you submitted an online form or used a feedback e-mail address. A reasonable timeframe within which to expect an acknowledgement is one week.
    Note: An acknowledgement is not a resolution of your issue.
  2. Proposed action: expression of intent and plan to take action on your request. A proposed action should include a description of the resolution and a timeframe for when improvements can be expected.
    Note: Many government departments and large organizations have a policy of responding to correspondence within four weeks.
  3. Resolution: notification that the issue has been resolved and the website has been improved.
    Note: Unfortunately, many organizations will not notify you of this, especially if they provided advice about their proposed resolution of your issue.

Further Action to Consider

Some organizations don't know how to make their websites accessible, some get it wrong, and some just ignore it. Consider taking further action if you feel that the organization is not responding appropriately and is not adequately resolving the accessibility problem. Follow-up actions could include:

Note: Some people have found that a combination of getting an organization that supports people with disabilities or older people involved, combined with a legal or formal approach (possibly through a government disability or human rights agency) to be effective.

Sample Emails

The following email template and some sample emails are provided for your use. Feel free to adapt these for your feedback, or to write in your own style.

Email Template

Each part of the template has sections for you to complete as appropriate as indicated by the [hints] in brackets which are also italicized and colored light blue.

Note: Be as descriptive as possible of the accessibility problem you encountered, the difficulties you are experiencing, and the impact on your use of the website.

Start of template:

Subject: Problem encountered on ... [XYZ website]

Dear ... [name or position of person you're writing to]

I recently visited your website but had difficulty with ... [web address (URL), or describe the page where the problem occurs]
when I try to ... [describe what you were trying to do on their site].
The problem I experienced was ... [describe what doesn't work for you or what doesn't work the way you expected].
This meant I was unable to ... [describe what you had hoped to do on their website].
I have no trouble on ... [maybe describe a similar site that works for you].

I use a ... [your computer and operating system]
with the ... [name and version of your browser].
I also use ... [describe any settings you might have changed, or assistive technology you use, if appropriate].

Further information about Web accessibility is available in "Accessibility" from the W3C at http://www.w3.org/standards/webdesign/accessibility.html [feel free to include some other references]

I look forward to seeing your improvements. Please contact me if I can be of further assistance.

Yours sincerely, ...

End of template

Sample Email 1

Start of sample email 1:

Subject: Problem with Citylights' ticket page

Dear Citylights Marketing Manager,

I encountered some accessibility issues for people with disabilities and older people using your website.

I recently visited your ticket offers page (http://www.cl.acme.com/tickets/mank.html) looking for tickets for Thelonius Mank. I couldn't use the page because the gray text on the black background is too hard to read.

You can get further information about Web accessibility from the introduction to Web accessibility at http://www.w3.org/standards/webdesign/accessibility.html

If you would like me to supply any further information, please email me.

As I am a CityLights' events fan, I would appreciate your attention to this problem - please let me know when it is fixed.

Regards, John

End of sample email 1

Sample Email 2

Start of sample email 2:

Subject: Accessibility of Citylights' news page

Hello Citylights Director,

I listen to web pages on my notebook computer with Windows and Internet Explorer and with the NVDA screen reader and have a problem with your news page (http://www.cl.acme.com/news/news.html).

My colleague told me that you had some heat wave information so I went to the news page, but there was something strange going on. I found a sentence about the heat wave and temperatures, but then there was something about the violin case man. Much of the page seemed mixed up and was confusing for me to listen to - it appears it was not written in a linear fashion so that someone like me using a screen reader can easily understand it. In addition, your news page didn't seem to have any headings either — these help me understand the sections on the page and can help me navigate the stories.

You can get further information about Web accessibility from the W3C at:

Please let me know when these problems are addressed.

Thank you for your attention. Maria

End of sample email 2

Sample Email 3

Start of sample email 3:

Subject: Problem accessing Citylights' surveys

Hi Citylights,

Love your stories, but not your surveys! I'm a person who has trouble using a mouse and keyboard - I can use a mouse but only for very short periods of time, and only with much difficulty. Usually I tab around web pages. Anyway, on your survey page I was only able to get to the question about how many cars we have when I tabbed around. When I did try using the mouse to answer the 'where do I live' question, I couldn't click on the words like I can on many other sites' forms.

I have a WinXP laptop and use the Opera browser.

By the way, making your site accessible will benefit Citylights too, see Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization (www.w3.org/WAI/bcase/Overview.html). For an introduction to web accessibility, see www.w3.org/standards/webdesign/accessibility.html

Please tell me when you've fixed this problem. Happy to help you further.


[Cc'd to the Spinal Cord Injury Association]

End of sample email 3

Status: This document is a complete draft published for public review.
Please send comments to wai-eo-editors@w3.org (a publicly archived list) by 13 January 2010.