The following is more of the self-advocacy for accessibility toolkit.
As stated earlier, it is important to give the company as much information as possible to help it fix the issue quickly. This information should include:
- Which operating system and version you’re using, such as Windows 10, Windows 11, Mac OS 12.5, etc.
- Which browser and version, such as Firefox 104, Chrome 106, etc.
- Which access technology and version (if applicable), such as JAWS 2022, VoiceOver, NVDA 2022.1, etc.
- The address of the exact page on the site where you are experiencing problems.
- The task you are attempting to complete or the information you’re trying to access.
- The date(s) on which the barriers were observed.
- What you are experiencing that is preventing you from completing the task or accessing the information.
Where to Find the Information
- For Windows, just knowing the major version, 7, 8, 8.1, or 10 is usually enough since both the browser and screen reader are updated independently. For other operating systems, and especially Mac and iOS, having the exact version number is more important, as both the browser and screen reader are updated with the operating system. In macOS, open the “Apple Menu,” choose “About This Mac,” and review that window to find the version of macOS you’re running. For iOS, go to “Settings,” “General,” “About,” and the version will be listed near the top of the screen. For most Android devices, open “Settings” and scroll down to the bottom of the list and choose “About Phone” to get the Android version.
- For browsers on Windows and macOS, open the “Help” menu and choose “About” to get the version number. For Safari on iOS a version number is not necessary as it is updated with the operating system. For other mobile browsers, the simplest place to check is its app store page for the version number.
- How to get the version of your access technology will differ depending on the program and the system it is running on. Most Windows-based access technology should have a help menu with an “About” option. Some, like Narrator on Windows or VoiceOver on iOS, do not need a version number as they are updated with the operating system. For other access technology, look through the program or app’s settings and help pages to find the installed version.
- To get the URL, make sure you are on the page where the issue is, then:
- On Windows, for all browsers, press CTRL+L to focus the address bar. Press CTRL+A to make sure the address is selected, and then CTRL+C to copy it.
- For all Mac browsers the process is the same, just substitute the Command key for control.
- On iOS with VoiceOver running, double-tap on the address bar at the top of the screen, then use the rotor to choose the “Edit” option. Choose and double-tap on “Select All,” then choose “Copy.”
- For Android devices with TalkBack running, double-tap on the address, then use the Talkback menu to select editing options and choose “Select All,” then go back to editing options and select “Copy.”
Writing Up Your Accessibility Issue
Once you know where to send the report and have all your information together, it’s time to start writing. How you formulate your letter is certainly up to you, but here are some pointers to help get you started. Start with introducing yourself and follow by briefly describing the access technology you use, especially if you are writing to a company that does not have an accessibility contact. Here is an example of how your letter might begin:
My name is Karl Belanger. I use a screen reader to access the computer, which is software that allows me as a blind user to access computers by reading out the content of websites and applications as I navigate them. I’m writing to you because I’m encountering some issues accessing your site.”
How You’re Accessing the Product
Here is where you put all the information you just gathered.
“I’m using Chrome 106 on Windows 10, and JAWS version 2022.” For a mobile app, you might say “I’m using an iPhone with iOS 16.0, and the current version of your app, as of October 1.”
What’s Happening and Where?
Follow this by describing the issue in as much detail as you can, including what you’re trying to accomplish, how your access technology reacts, such as “my screen reader does not read the form labels” or “when the calendar is magnified it overlaps with other content on the page,” and describe the impact this has on your use of the site. Don’t forget to paste the address if possible.
“While attempting to submit the checkout form on your site, located at https://some.link/checkout, nothing appears to happen after pressing the Submit button. After I explored the page, I noticed a message at the top of the form reading ‘Please correct the fields in red below.’ My screen reader does not announce colors, plus as far as I can tell everything seems to be filled in correctly, which means it is impossible for me to complete the form.”
What Should Be Happening and How Can It Be Fixed?
It is often helpful to suggest what changes will make the site more accessible. If you are not sure what can be done, go ahead and skip this section:
“Several steps can be taken to make the form more usable. First, when the form is submitted with errors, the focus should be moved to the error message. Next, the error message should list which fields have errors and possibly provide a link to the fields. Finally, any fields which have a required format, such as MM/DD/YYYY for a date field, should have this format provided to help users avoid errors in the first place.”
If you are submitting more than one issue at once, repeat the above two sections for each issue. You don’t need to restate what you’re using unless that changes, such as if you’re reporting one bug on the web and another in a mobile app.
Optionally, you can include some resources on web accessibility that the company may find useful, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or the Apple accessibility guide if you’re writing about an iOS app. See the accessibility resources section of this article for a list of resources I recommend.
Finally, end the letter. Offer to provide any additional information that they may need and ask to be informed of progress on fixing the issue.
Please remember that, while not being able to complete a task can be frustrating, it is important to keep the letter professional. Companies will respond much better to a clear, well-written letter than an emotionally charged one.