What to do when you find an unusable website

You just remembered to order a dear friend’s birthday gift for the surprise party a group of you planned for the following weekend. You log on to the website with your mobile device. The links aren’t labeled, and your device only reads the word “image.” Browsing its contents, your frustration mounts. Fingers crossed, you hope for things to improve as you scroll down the page only to discover there isn’t a “contact” link.

What now? You power up your laptop and log on, hoping your assistive technology will do a better job of recognizing the site’s contents and layout. You locate a “contact” link. However, the page is full of dropdown menus that won’t open. Disheartened, you leave the site and choose to order something from another online vendor.

As a consumer, you opted for the site that provided you with an accessible and convenient interface. What about the company you abandoned? Are they aware of their lack of website accessibility? Is there a proper protocol to follow when contacting a business? Or do you simply file a lawsuit and take your chances in court? People have won these lawsuits. 

In 2008, Target paid $6 million to settle a class-action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind, and nearly $4 million more to cover the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and other costs.

Before you decide to approach the business with unusable website accessibility, you should be able to give them a succinct definition of accessibility. The Web Accessibility Initiative states that a site's accessibility can specifically be defined as a digital space that is, “perceive, understand, and navigate by a person with any disability.”

 Sites should also be designed for optimal mobile usability, for slow Internet connections and for people with situational limitations.

Website accessibility looks different for every user. Screen reader users cannot navigate unlabeled form fields or images. Hearing impaired people will not know what is happening during a video without closed captioning. 

Now that you’re familiar with what accessibility is, let’s see how you might successfully convince a company to make their site more accessible.

Start by telling them how you found their website. Explain what you could not do on their site, such as place an order or fill out a survey. Share helpful statistics: for example, 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability. Businesses could miss out on many customers without an accessible website.

Don’t lecture a business on why their website should be user-friendly. Share helpful tips and resources to make their site work better, such as labeling form fields and graphics. Outlook Business Solutions, our sister organization, provides free initial evaluations of websites and can work with businesses to correct accessibility issues. Businesses need tangible solutions that will not break the bank.

Don’t simply complain. Be part of the solution. By learning about website accessibility, you are not only advocating for yourself and others with disabilities but you are educating businesses about how to draw in more consumers.

It might seem as if reaching out to one company individually won’t make a difference, but it does! Every little bit can help shorten the gap between consumers with disabilities and the corporate world. If enough people speak up, change will occur.

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