First aid for accessibility complaints

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Have you received a complaint about the accessibility of your website or document and don’t you know what to do about it? Here is a concrete roadmap.

Where does the accessibility complaint come from?

To start with, it is good to know where the accessibility complaint is coming from. This will help you find the best solution to this problem. For example, you may receive a report or reminder from a regulator, a complaint from an individual through the accessibility statement on your website or a report through a contact point or advocacy organisation. These situations are explained further later in this post.

Direct to ‘Various accessibility complaints

Determine your next action for accessibility

Do not see a complaint as an attack, but rather as a valuable tip to improve the accessibility of your website for all your users, including people with disabilities. I assume that you want everyone to be able to use your website properly, so this is good feedback for you.

The first action is to give feedback to the person making the complaint, unless it has been stated beforehand that this is not necessary. The reporter has made an effort to provide you with valuable information, so it is good to express your appreciation for this. It is also advisable to state immediately what you will do with the complaint and when you will have a solution or an alternative. If you don’t know at this stage, indicate when you will come back to it. And then do so.

Next, investigate what the problem is, what the cause is and how you can solve it. For this, you will often need your colleagues, suppliers and perhaps external specialists. Based on this inventory, you can then reserve money and capacity to solve the accessibility problem. Preferably, of course, a permanent solution, but possibly a temporary, quick fix can also help to at least address the complaint.

Record your actions and be transparent

You may find that not all accessibility problems are easy and quick to solve. After all, if they were, they probably wouldn’t have been a problem. In any case, keep track of what you have done so far, what you are going to do next and when it is planned. An excellent tool for this is the accessibility statement on your website. This shows that you take the accessibility of your website seriously and do everything possible to minimise complaints.

Get professional help for accessibility

Are you unable to find a solution to the accessibility problem yourself, with your colleagues and suppliers? Then enlist the help of an accessibility expert. Some problems can be quite complex, and an accessibility expert is likely to have found solutions to similar problems before. Such an accessibility professional can also help with conducting an independent accessibility audit and with making PDF documents accessible.

Various accessibility complaints

A complaint can come from different directions. It is good to know what to do in each situation. Therefore, here are some common situations.

Control of regulator DIGG

In Sweden, DIGG (the agency for digital government) carries out regular checks on the accessibility of government organisations’ websites. They assess websites in terms of content for accessibility problems and send a report to the organisations concerned.

DIGG carries out two different checks. In the simplified check, they only use an automatic accessibility tool and in the detailed check, DIGG manually tests a number of representative pages on your website.

In a simplified check, you don’t have to report anything back to DIGG. You can think of this report as feedback and an addition to a manual accessibility audit you have done yourself or had someone else do.

A detailed check does require you to demonstrate what you are doing to improve the accessibility of your website. Link back, for example, which problems you have solved. For problems you cannot (yet) solve, you have to submit an action plan. Take this seriously, as DIGG may eventually fine you. This won’t happen immediately, but don’t let it get that far either.

Monitoring from Logius

In the Netherlands, Logius monitors compliance with accessibility of (semi-)government websites and apps. Logius can also send a notification regarding accessibility, but this differs from that of DIGG. This is because Logius does not check content, but mainly looks at the form and your accessibility statement.

For example, you may receive complaints from Logius about the lack of a proper and up-to-date accessibility report. Such a report must meet certain requirements and may not be older than 3 years. Logius can also send a notification if your accessibility statement expires. Also read Checking statements on the Digitoegankelijk website.

In the event of such complaints, it is important that you ensure that you have a new accessibility survey carried out that meets the requirements and update your accessibility statement.

Complaints from individuals, contact points and advocacy organisations

Individuals who actually experience accessibility problems, advocacy organisations that stand up for the rights of people with disabilities and inaccessibility contact points or hotlines all have the goal of improving websites, apps and documents. Complaints they have should therefore be taken seriously and tried to resolve as best as possible.

However, it is worth remembering that there is a difference between ‘meeting accessibility requirements’ and ‘100% accessible for all’. Meeting accessibility requirements – such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – does not mean that everyone can use your website, app or document without problems.

For example, the WCAG sets a minimum requirement for the contrast between text and background. Even if the text meets this minimum requirement, certain people with poor eyesight may still have trouble reading texts on your website. Understanding and recognising these nuances and deciding what to do with them can be tricky. In such a case, it is useful to enter into a dialogue with the complainant and possibly seek advice from an accessibility expert.

Back to ‘Determine your next action

All in all, complaints are valuable and a free form of advice for improving your website, app or document. If you take this seriously, you can turn a complaint into an opportunity.

Featured photo by Hunter Johnson on Unsplash.