Whether browsing the web or using an app on our phones, we often come across accessibility problems that make the site or app less useful. Reporting these issues to the developers helps companies become aware of issues faster and may even be the first time a company has heard about blind users using their product. The vast majority of the time, apps and web sites are inaccessible simply because the company does not know they need to make it accessible, rather than through any sort of malice on their part. Given the vast number of inaccessible apps and web sites, it is vital that everyone work together to report issues, educate companies, and help make many more products and services accessible.
This document will give you the tools to be on the front lines and directly engage with the products and services you use.
Telling a company when you encounter accessibility issues with their products both alerts them to issues which can be fixed, but also educates them about a customer base and potential market that they may not have considered.
When reporting an accessibility issue to a company, it’s important to be as specific as you can. Telling them their product doesn’t work or is inaccessible may be accurate, but it doesn’t give them anything to go on when trying to fix the issue. Each accessibility issue documented should contain several specific components:
- How you’re accessing the product, including operating system, browser (if applicable), and access technology in use.
- What you’re trying to do: Search for a product, complete a registration form, complete your purchase, etc. Include the address of the page, or specific steps to get to the area with the issue.
- What’s happening: What part of the interaction isn’t working? What’s making the task more difficult or impossible to complete?
- What should be happening: When possible, describe how things should work once the issue is resolved.
- Potential solutions (optional): If you are comfortable giving more technical recommendations about how to resolve the specific issue, do so.
- Repeat steps 3-5 for each issue you are reporting.
- Accessibility resources: Providing links to relevant accessibility resources makes it easier for developers to quickly find information on how to resolve the reported issues.
In addition to the above, it’s generally a good idea to start with a brief introduction including your name and anything you feel is relevant to the interactions with the company, then end with a polite conclusion looking forward to the resolution of the issues and offering to provide additional info it needed. That said, before you can report an issue, you need someone to report it to.
Pitfalls of Reporting Accessibility Issues
Before we get into the specifics of reporting an issue, be aware of pitfalls that can sabotage chances of a positive outcome.
- The first and simplest pitfall is being too general. If you follow the steps in this document, you should have no issue with this one. Simply telling a company something doesn’t work, you can’t use the site, your screen reader doesn’t read, or any similar statement without giving specifics will likely be ignored simply because there is nothing actionable. Giving as much detail as possible makes it easier for the company to reproduce and act on fixing the problem.
- A ranting or accusatory email might alleviate your anger or stress at not being able to get something done, but will most likely get your email quickly deleted and may even get you blocked if you do this repeatedly.
- Excessive communication can be overwhelming. If you haven’t heard anything, sending an email after a week or two to follow up is a good idea. If you’ve gotten a response indicating they’ll work on the issue, give it some time before reaching back out. Don’t spam them with duplicate bug reports or constant demands for updates on the issue. Doing so will most likely just annoy them and may get your emails sent to the spam box.
- Threatening legal action, reports to government agencies, lawsuits, or any similar language too early will result in your email getting forwarded to the legal team, who have no direct ability to resolve your concerns. Any future emails will almost certainly go straight to legal as well. If you’ve repeatedly reached out and tried to work with the company and have gotten nowhere, you can try bringing in legal discussions, but be aware this will have a high probability of just ending any potential cooperation.