Contacting Organizations about Inaccessible Websites
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 friends, family, or colleagues for help understanding the problem you are observing and communicating it to the website owner. For example, the issue may be related to the website or any assistive technologies you are using. You can also ask other to help you communicate with the website owner. For example, an advocacy group.
Encouraging Accessible Websites
Acknowledge and encourage organizations that make an effort to be 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:
- Editor, Author, Page Owner, Webmaster
- Contact Us, Feedback, Comments
- Help, Support, Customer Service, “FAQ” (frequently asked questions)
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:
- telephone directory
- local library and librarian
- local business directory
- public companies register
Describe the Problem
Describe the accessibility barrier clearly. This will help the organization find and fix the problem. Include:
- the page where you found a problem
- what the problem is that you observe
- what computer and software you use
- a screenshot of the web page
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.
- the operating system you are using, and the version (for example, Windows 10, macOS 10.13, or Linux Ubuntu 17.10)
- the browser software you use to view the Web, and the version (for example, Edge, Internet Explorer (IE) 11, Firefox 60, Chrome 62.0, Opera 45, Safari 10.1.2, etc.)
Also include the following information if it relates to the problem you are having:
- any settings you have customized (for example, I set the Font Size to Largest in my browser)
- any assistive technology that you use (for example, screen reader, screen magnification software, voice recognition software for input)
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:
- Introduction to Web Accessibility
- How People with Disabilities Use the Web
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview
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:
- Keep copies of the website when you first encounter the problem. For example, take screenshots, save the pages on your hard drive, or print the pages. If the website changes, make new copies of it.
- Keep printed or electronic copies of all correspondence, including email, postal mail, and online forms.
- Keep records of all phone calls. Include the dates, the names of who you talked with, and notes on what was said.
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. Government agencies and other organizations providing public services may be required to respond.
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:
- Contact an advocacy group to see if they will get involved.
- Contact the organization’s senior management, such as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Managing Director, or Chief Business Officer.
- Use online community resources, such as blogging or social networking, to tell others about the inaccessible website. Share what the organization did in response to your contact.
- Contact the press or write a “letter to the editor”.
- Starting a petition (maybe online).
- If it is a government website, contact your local government.
- Lodge a formal complaint with the relevant industry regulator or ombudsman.
- Contact the government department responsible for disability rights, older people’s rights, or human rights.
- Consider legal action. For example, based on web accessibility requirements in anti-discrimination regulations in your country.
Feel free to adapt these sample emails for your situation.
In the template below, the [hints] in brackets are sections for you to complete.