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W3c Contacting Organizations About Inaccessible Websites

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Adrian Roselli

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User since: 14 Dec 1998

Articles written: 85

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.

A founder of evolt.org, Adrian Roselli (aardvark) is the Senior Usability Engineer at Algonquin Studios, located in Buffalo, New York.

Adrian has years of experience in graphic design, web design and multimedia design, as well as extensive experience in internet commerce and interface design and usability. He has been developing for the World Wide Web since its inception, and working the design field since 1993. Adrian is a founding member, board member, and writer to evolt.org. In addition, Adrian sits on the Digital Media Advisory Committee for a local SUNY college and a local private college, as well as the board for a local charter school.

You can see his brand-spanking-new blog at http://blog.adrianroselli.com/ as well as his new web site to promote his writing and speaking at AdrianRoselli.com

Adrian authored the usability case study for evolt.org in Usability: The Site Speaks for Itself, published by glasshaus. He has written three chapters for the book Professional Web Graphics for Non Designers, also published by glasshaus. Adrian also managed to get a couple chapters written (and published) for The Web Professional's Handbook before glasshaus went under. They were really quite good. You should have bought more of the books.

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evolt.org Evolt.org is an all-volunteer resource for web developers made up of a discussion list, a browser archive, and member-submitted articles. This article is the property of its author, please do not redistribute or use elsewhere without checking with the author.