3 Key Components in Dealing With Accessibility Feedback

Hand writing a list with magic marker. Items 1, 2, 3 under "Handling Feedback"

Frustrated Customers Provide Feedback

Accessibility feedback is usually a complaint from a user or an employee who is unable to use your website, software or physical space. In the middle of interacting with your site or software, they find they are unable to proceed.  Their next move is to ask for help and point out the issues. It is important to respond appropriately to such complaints.  Dismissal, minimization or ignoring them are the most common reasons people with disabilities file lawsuits. By not responding appropriately to accessibility complaints, you are minimizing the person’s needs. You are preventing them from accessing your space, products, or services, and missing an opportunity to do business with them. Responses to accessibility complaints should be immediate, complete, and provide the best solution available. 

Immediate

Your response should be immediate and should acknowledge the complaint politely and apologetically.  Delays in responding to accessibility feedback (and we don’t mean an automated response) are not acceptable. One of the most frustrating things people with disabilities hear when they point out an issue is that they must wait for a solution. While not all solutions can be immediate, your response should be, and, if possible, it’s helpful to let them know what steps will be taken to resolve their issue.  Example:

“Dear User,

Thank you for bringing to our attention that there is an unlabeled button on page www.buyourstuff.com.  We’re sorry you were unable to complete your transaction.  I will contact our webmaster immediately and request that this be resolved. Meanwhile, you can call 800-555-1111 to complete your transaction if you wish.” 

In an ideal world, there would be a follow-up with the complainant so they know when the issue has been resolved. Without follow-up, it is possible the person complaining will never visit your website or attempt to use or acquire your product again. 

Another example:

“I received your email that our company insurance enrollment form is inaccessible and you are unable to enroll in our company benefits plan. Let’s meet tomorrow to discuss how to get you enrolled. Then we will set a meeting with the insurance company to request that they resolve the accessibility issues.”

Complete

Your response to accessibility feedback should be complete.  If there is a complaint that there is no ramp to enter your facility, providing one to get into the building with no ramp or elevator to get to the 2nd level is not a complete solution.  As in the second example about insurance enrollment, just helping the person get enrolled isn’t an accessibility fix. Working with the insurance company to resolve the issue is the complete fix.  

If someone complains that you have an inaccessible PDF document published on your website, you need to remediate not just that document, but all PDF documents available on your website.  If someone informs you that your intra-office mobile app is inaccessible, you should review the accessibility of all your mobile apps, not just that one. Chances are, if some aspect of your business is inaccessible, similar items will be as well.   

Best

You should choose the best possible solution to any accessibility issue, not necessarily the fastest. It’s a good idea to put a temporary, faster solution into place until the ideal one can be accomplished. However, the fastest solution is usually not the best or most usable.  For example, you may wish to exchange an inaccessible PDF document on your website for an accessible MS Word copy while the PDF is being remediated.

Did you receive a complaint about a video missing captioning? You can use an automated closed captioning function (YouTube has a pretty good one) until you can have it done professionally.  Relying on substandard tools (the YouTube automatic captioning can have some pretty funny and confusing errors in its speech-to-text) is not always the best final solution. Nearly all automated solutions still require manual review. (See our article Can Image Recognition by Artificial Intelligence Replace Alt Text?

Removing an offending document from your website or turning off an inaccessible feature is NOT the best solution.  It prevents ALL users from accessing your information, products or services. The best accessibility solution is always the one that provides the exact same access to space, information, products, or services that a person without disabilities will get.  

Don’t Forget 

It’s important to remember that much of accessibility feedback deals with dignity and privacy issues.  Privacy is violated if a person cannot access websites, online forms, or interact with your products and services independently. Even having to share with someone else what groceries you are buying online is invasive.  Having to provide personal information to another person in order to complete HR tasks or purchase merchandise is unacceptable. Having to wait patiently to go through a door for someone to open it for you is demeaning. It is illegal to exclude people from your company’s information, products, or services, even unintentionally.  Be sure your responses are prompt, complete, and use the best approach available. 

Need help resolving accessibility complaints?  Contact us!

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Tammy Albee

Tammy Albee | Content Marketer | Onix Tammy joined Onix after four years experience working at the National Federation of the Blind. She firmly maintains that accessibility is about reaching everyone, regardless of ability, and boosting your market share in the process. "Nobody should be barred from accessing information. It's what drives our modern society."