Being constructive about accessibility.

12/08/2016 Written by Mike Taylor Senior Accessibility Analyst DAC.)


As a user of assistive technology I often experience, and know people who experience some accessibility problems when using a website or app at least once a week.

Often, like many users, I feel frustrated by various access-related problems and usually just switch to a different website or app. Although my position in the field of accessibility means that I am able to clearly explain any issues to an organisation and hopefully move towards resolving any difficulties in the future, it can sometimes be difficult to approach an organisation when describing a problem and sometimes, I have just been so annoyed that I haven’t been bothered to make the first contact at all.

The problem with this approach of course is that if no one tells the developer that something isn’t working, nothing will get resolved, because the very people who should know, simply don’t know or may not understand the problem in order to provide a solution.

Following is a guide giving an example of what a company would benefit from when explaining an access-related problem and how both user and company can hopefully come to a resolution.

Try to relax

Sorry if I come over as patronising but if I send an email just explaining that a website doesn’t work with my assistive technology, or get frustrated with a customer service agent because their development team haven’t got an alternative method of reading an inaccessible document, they haven’t got much to go on in order to help me. If I give myself time to get over my initial frustration and come back to the problem later, I can think more clearly. Even if I write down my difficulty I can come back and maybe edit it in to a well-constructed email or points to consider if I need to call the company involved.

Explaining the problem

To identify and work towards a solution, I need to tell the company what I was trying to do, what I couldn’t do, and what document, app (including the screen title or tab which was being viewed) or web page I was viewing when the problem occurred.

If possible it would help further if I could tell the company what web browser (including the version) I was using, the operating system, and assistive technology I am using (again including the software version.) If I am using a mobile device, the type of phone and operating system, together with the assistive technology used would help the company to get the information to their developers.

Even if only some of the information provided is possible, such as what assistive technology I use, it’s better than no information at all, and most large organisations will be able to tell you what they need and where to find it when asking for browser or device information.

What next?

It isn’t always easy to keep track of such things during our busy lives, although it might be worth keeping a note of your contact, or keeping the email conversation if conducted via an online contact form. Hopefully a company will get back to you and in my example I think of when writing this, they apologised for the inconvenience and thanked me for the information.

If however the experience is different it would be an option to contact the company again in a month to ask for an update, and hopefully this will move things in a positive direction. What if it doesn’t resolve anything?

If you believe you have tried and explained as much as you can, now maybe is the correct time to inform a company that if something is inaccessible it means that you are not able to use their particular service.

Informing them that under the Equal Opportunities Act 2010 there is now a legal requirement for users to be supported by a reasonable adjustment, or in this case an alternative option if not possible.

I would usually look for an email address on their accessibility page if they have one, or alternatively a customer services or help email address to send any queries through to.

The end result

When I have approached a company in the past, I have to say the majority of organisations have been positive and tried to implement a fix, even if it has taken some time. This is of course another important factor, things don’t get resolved overnight, it takes time for the developers while they try to identify and resolve the problem.

Digital Accessibility Centre has a solution tailored to address this issue. AccessIn is an accessibility maintenance tool which the user can report issues with sites as soon as they come across them. If you are reading this and you work for an organisation who would benefit from the AccessIn service, you can find out more about AccessIn by selecting this link (link is external.)

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