Contacting Organizations about Inaccessible Websites

Introduction

This document shows you how to encourage organizations to make their website accessible. Contact organizations when you find accessibility barriers on their website.

Your feedback to an organization can help them improve their website’s accessibility. This will benefit you, other people who use the website, and the organization itself. Website owners have many priorities for changes and improvements. The more an organization hears about accessibility from people who use their website, the more likely it is that accessibility will become a higher priority. Positive feedback is useful, as well as critical feedback.

Some website owners are not even aware of the importance of making their website accessible. Websites are required to be accessible in many countries by national policies. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that people with disabilities have a right to access information and services via the Internet. Also, accessible websites provide business benefits for website owners and benefits for people without disabilities.

Note that most accessibility barriers are caused by poor website design and development. However, some accessibility problems might be related to settings in your web browser or assistive technology. For guidance to help you customize your particular web browser and computer setup so it’s easier to use websites, see Better Web Browsing: Tips for Customizing Your Computer.

Consider Your Approach

Consider what approach will get the results you want. Your tone in emails, phone calls, and other communications influences how people react and respond.

Keep in mind that there are different reasons why websites are not accessible. Some organizations don’t know about accessibility and don’t know how to make their websites accessible. Some are just learning about accessibility and trying to make their website accessible, although they might not be doing it well enough yet. And there are some organizations that choose not to make their websites accessible.

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

Asking Others to Help

Consider asking for help understanding the problem and communicating it. Someone might be able to help you understand the website or assistive technologies. Someone might help you communicate to the website owners. For example, an advocacy group.

Encouraging Accessible Websites

Acknowledge and encourage organizations that make their websites accessible. Positive feedback can motivate individuals and organizations. It can encourage other organizations to invest in web accessibility.

Identify Key Contacts

Try to find the person responsible for the web page or application that is inaccessible. Or find the person responsible for accessibility at the organization. Sometimes you will have to use any contact you can find. Look for links on their website such as:

Some links will be email addresses, some will go to online forms, and some will provide other ways to contact the organization.

If you cannot find contacts on the website, other places to look include:

Describe the Problem

Describe the accessibility barrier clearly. This will help the organization find and fix the problem. Include:

Where the Problem is

Include the web address (also called URL), or a description of the page.

What the Problem is

Provide details about what you were trying to do, and why it was difficult or impossible to do it.

What Computer and Software You are Using

Provide details about your computer and software. If you don’t know, maybe a friend, relative, or colleague can help you find that information. If not, you can skip this part.

Include:

Also include the following information if it relates to the problem you are having:

Even if you don’t know all the details, include what you do know.

Note: Do not reveal personal information such as passwords, via email or otherwise. Do not provide any information that you are not comfortable disclosing.

Include Sources for More Information

Help the organization understand web accessibility issues. Consider including the following resources:

Request Reply

Ask the organization to reply to you. If you are comfortable giving your phone number, include your number in case they want to discuss the problem.

Follow-Up as Needed

Responsible organizations will follow up with you. However, sometimes you might need to follow up with them.

Be Available for Follow-up

The website developers might need more information from you to help them diagnose and fix the problem.

Keep Records for Further Follow-Up

You might need records if you later decide to take further action. In particular:

Getting a Response

You might get a quick response, or it might take longer to hear back. It depends on the organization’s culture, policies, and internal systems.

You might get an automatic reply that the organization received your feedback. The organization should follow up later with a direct reply to your issue.

Sometimes the organization does not have expertise in accessibility. They may not understand your feedback. They might assume the issue is with your browser or assistive technology.

The organization might fix the problem and not notify you.

If you do not receive satisfactory responses within a reasonable timeframe, consider taking further action, described below.

Further Action to Consider

If you feel the organization is not adequately resolving the accessibility problem, consider taking further action. For example:

Sample Emails

Feel free to adapt these sample emails for your situation.

Email Template

In the template below, the [hints] in brackets are sections for you to complete.

Sample Email 1

Sample Email 2

Sample Email 3

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