Accessibility feedback is very hard to provide for consumers

2 minute read

I realized another factor highlighting the importance of fixing accessibility bugs before end users encounter them. The problem that the end users face because of the bug is bad enough. What adds insult to injury is the difficulty that such an end user has of conveying the problem back to an organization through their regular sales and consumer relationship channels.

I had my costco membership renewed recently and the online access for my account required a verification workflow where the costco system sends me an email with a link. I am supposed to follow the link and complete the verification steps. This email is completely inaccessible and is entirely composed of an image that is not read by any screen reader.

I tried reaching out to the costco membership services on the phone and as well intentioned as the person on the phone was, they had no idea what I was talking about. Most people have never heard of a screen reader and are surprised that blind people actually exist and live regular lives with grocery needs. She tried to reach out to her manager who was equally at a loss to understand what I was saying. The manager had me dictate a message with all the required details for their IT department and promised to get back to me soon.

I did not hear back for a week and called back. This time, the rep was a lot less patient and recommended that the only way I could get more help was to visit a costco location and meet a membership rep in person.

Sure enough, I headed over to my local costco and met the smiling lady at the membership services counter. The lady on the counter was predictably clueless about what I was talking about and could not understand why I could not click on the link when it was right there in front of her eyes as I showed her the email on my phone. Again, the best she could do was to have her manager write down the problem as I dictated and send it over to their IT department for help.

The point I am trying to make with the above story is to highlight how hard it is for an end user to provide the feedback about accessibility problems with your product even if you have some of the best customer service in the world. Your customer facing people will probably never be technical enough or will have exposure to information to assistive tools and technologies used by people with disabilities to be able to understand these inputs from your consumers and route them to the right department for fixing.

So, please find and fix these fundamental issues before they reach your customers because your customers will not be able to tell you about these when they run into them.