The Problem We Address
Consider the common accessibility statement linked from the bottom of your home page. It begins by listing the accessibility standards you support and concludes with how to file accessibility claims with various government agencies. By claiming compliance to standards and laws like Title II of the ADA, you may feel your liability reduced, and providing links to official complaint forms is certainly compliant.
The problem is clear if you put yourself in the shoes of disabled people who have arrived on your website, only to be frustrated by some inaccessibility, and then to land on your accessibility statement. The first part says you are accessible, that is, calls them uninformed or incompetent, and then invites them to begin the process that can lead to a judicial complaint against your organization from the DOJ or the Office of Civil Rights. This is like poking the bear and telling him where to find your picnic basket.
Consider what your disabled visitor would prefer, a help desk to empower them to make best use of your website -- and then to grow it into a community of the disabled who likes your website. Consider a Collaborative Accessibility Portal (CAP) that converts adversaries into allies, and engages them in a process to make your website more accessible.
You replace your counterproductive accessibility statement with a link to your copy of our CAP, a portal that Access2online operates for you like a full-featured help desk service. This portal comes with a Coordinator trained in practical website accessibility who is familiar with your website, particularly its accessibility issues and plans. This Coordinator is also skilled with assistive technology like screen readers and is a master of overcoming accessibility obstructions.
Your CAP presents your disabled website visitors with easy support options far quicker than filing formal complaints. Besides phone, texting, email, chat, and fax, visitors are encouraged to use online forms for their support requests, forms that cut out voicemail and phone tag by collecting everything the Coordinator needs to solve an accessibility problem the first time, for example, the URL of the page with the inaccessibility.
Whereas the long term solution is a clear remediation suggestion the Coordinator sends your web designer, the immediate solution is a workaround for the disabled person who is stuck right now. This can be a sophisticated tip with the visitor's screen reader, but it is commonly just the sighted Coordinator getting past the inaccessibility to find the information the disabled visitor needs and getting that to him or her. And the report forwarded to your web designer is not a vague user flame of frustration but remediation instructions with the HTML needed for the page in question, typically more than one option, reference to the WCAG standard item offended, and all the details to get the job done.
All of this forms a support incidence in a database. Your management can get reports from this database that indicate:
- Inaccessibility's by website section
- Average remediation request turnaround
- Timeline and details regarding a particular incident should it escalate into a judicial complaint
- Overall accessibility trends across your entire online presence
If you run a disability support service bureau, consider a Collaborative Accessibility Portal as a way to automate part of what you do. Picture a way the disabled can open an incidence request much as you do within your organization when requesting help from your IT group. Consider how much better that can serve the disabled compared to voicemail, phone tag, and forgetting to get the offending URL while it's still fresh in the visitor's mind. Add to that how much more informative your management would find the reports from such an incidence request system in terms of inaccessibility locations by department or function or over time, and with resolution turnaround time.
The CAP comes with other forms you can choose to activate for your portal:
- assistive technology help
- mail list sign up
- volunteer signups
To form a disabled community within your organization, a moderated blog presents a forum for questions and answers operated by the portal visitors themselves. The portal Coordinator makes sure all posts comply with your policy before displaying them on the blog. This becomes your window into your organization's disabled community.
Every support request on your CAP is fully traceable, including if it is delegated outside the portal.
How to Get Started
All you need do is to contact us and request a proposal. We respond with a questionnaire about what we'll need to set up your CAP. Then we schedule a teleconference where we go over your particular interests regarding your portal. Within days of accepting our proposal, you get a password, a test drive, and unlimited support.
After everything looks right, you replace your link to your accessibility statement with a link to your CAP.
Questions & Answers
What does this cost?
Far less than building it yourself. The time and money to build the backend software application has already been paid. It is ready in the cloud to add your account. The time and money to train a real-time Coordinator has already been paid. She is ready to add your website's requests to her workload right now. We're happy to bid per incident or on a monthly subscription basis with unlimited incidents.
What if we're already following an Action Plan regarding accessibility?
Stick to it, and use your CAP to connect it to the community it is to address. Present your Action Plan through your portal for feedback, engagement, and support.
Can we provide our own portal Coordinator?
Yes, and they can do so from where they are. Besides knowing the accessibility issues of your website, this Coordinator would need to be a master of accessibility workarounds. This requires experience with assistive technology, particularly screen readers. Sadly, they cannot be disabled or they may be stuck at the same obstruction as your disabled website visitor. Your portal Manager will be able to do everything that our Coordinator can do within your portal.
A federal district court has ruled in case# CV 16-06599 SJO in favor of Domino's Pizza against a complaint citing the inaccessibility of their website. Part of Domino's defense was that they had set up a support system with a human Coordinator helping the disabled navigate their website, much like a Collaborative Accessibility Portal. Does that mean you can leave your website inaccessible as long as you implement a Collaborative Accessibility Portal? We don't think so, but this ruling does seem to say a Collaborative Accessibility Portal is a good idea.