Wednesday, January 6, 2010

W3C: Contacting Organizations about Inaccessible Websites

For those of us who make a living working with organizations to help make their web sites accessible to users with disabilities, we've got it easy — the client wants to hear our recommendations. As users, however, all too often we stumble across an accessibility issue and don't know what to do to correct it. Granted, in my case I have a long history of making phone calls until I get somebody on the line, but I can speak the necessary lingo, not everyone else can.

The W3C WAI has just published a document that helps walk users through the steps necessary to contact someone about the issues you find, along with tips and sample emails. They call this document (simply enough) Contacting Organizations about Inaccessible Websites. Those familiar with the W3C should not be surprised that the title bears the [Draft] declaration at the front. The overview from the document (emphasis theirs):

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 what approach will get the results you want
  • Keep records of all communications for possible follow-up
  • Encourage others to also provide feedback to the organization
  • Use the sample emails provided below

Because the document is a public draft, the W3C is accepting feedback up to February 3, 2010. The WAI Interest Group (IG) has a mailing list for public discussion of topics, including this one. There is a little more detail about this process at the blog post announcing this document.

If you've ever been to site and clicked on the words next to a radio button or checkbox and had nothing happen (the button doesn't select), then this document is for you. In this example, the site developer has failed to use the label element. This one is the single biggest issue I consistently encounter (as someone who doesn't use assistive technologies as part of his daily life). So help out by offering feedback on the draft and/or notifying sites of issues.

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