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Implementing a Public Feedback Mechanism

Use the best practices below to successfully implement a feedback mechanism to collect, track, and resolve digital accessibility issues.

Initial Considerations

  1. As opposed to an Administrative Complaint under Section 508, scope the type of public feedback the mechanism will collect. Agencies should clearly define what constitutes public feedback regarding accessibility issues "with agency websites and digital services" and include the definition in their policy and on their public websites where applicable.  For example, public feedback may include a user emailing that they cannot navigate a webpage using specific Assistive Technology or that color contrast is not sufficient on a web page. 
    1. A public feedback response is defined as a submission using the agency's standard feedback mechanism that provides the ability for website visitors to provide comments or feedback. Submissions under this feedback mechanism do not inherently count as a complaint.
    2. Feedback on accessibility is not solely limited to web content; it also includes digital services. This could be an electronic document, a kiosk, etc.
  2. Institute a public feedback mechanism that:
    1. Is Section 508 conformant, including a fully conformant webpage from which the feedback mechanism is located.
    2. Is included in applicable agency Section 508 policy.
    3. Provides instructions on data collection and communication expectations throughout the resolution timeline.
    4. Is available and easy to find within the agency website's accessibility statement.
    5. Facilitates collecting, tracking, and adjudicating the feedback received.

Feedback Mechanism Implementation

At a minimum, the feedback mechanism should request the following data from the submitter and send the user confirmation of submission (see Feedback Tracking and Reporting for additional information regarding expectations of communications):

  1. Point of contact name (optional)
  2. Point of contact email address (optional)
  3. Point of contact phone number (optional)
  4. URL or description of where the issue is located. Use this as an example of what the submitter can put but this should be optional.
    1. Since digital services may be more than just a URL, consider other prompts to best understand the location of the accessibility issue.
  5. A description of the problem encountered (required):
  6. Consider:
    1. Asking the submitter to include the preferred format in which they want to receive any materials (optional).
    2. Asking the submitter for the best method of contact such as email, phone, etc. (optional).

There are two primary feedback mechanisms implemented across government: email address and an online, web-based form. Below are considerations for agencies in determining which mechanism will be effective in their environment.

Note: Agencies may choose to include a phone number as an additional method to provide feedback, but only do so if the phone is monitored during business hours and someone is available to intake the verbal information accurately.

Feedback mechanisms may allow:

  • Preformatted, structured data to be ported to a tracking mechanism either via intake linked to a ticketing system or via use of email export to excel.
  • Users to submit feedback anonymously with either a fake email or name.

Email Address:

The email address provided may be a generic inbox that is monitored by the Section 508 program.

Several examples of email address implementation and supplemental instructions: 

Considerations:

  • Email is regarded as being accessible.
  • Email allows for more free-form content for the submitter to explain the issue in their own words. Agencies should still include instructions for minimum data requested.
  • It is easy to swap an email address or instructions.
  • Email is an easy or low barrier for users to provide feedback.
  • A feedback email address is inexpensive and easy to implement, especially for small agencies.
  • Outlook emails can be imported to Excel: How to Import Emails from Outlook to Excel with Power Query for a tracking tool.
  • Email feedback may possibly require more effort to input and may not be suitable for high volumes of feedback.
  • Email may not collect all the necessary information needed, which may require additional contact with the submitter.
  • Submitters may need more direction than what they receive from the written instructions. 
  • Automatic receipts help confirm submission, but they do not confirm if a person reviewed the email.
  • Public facing email addresses have a high likelihood of receiving junk email.
  • The submitter may have difficulty following up to check on status or resolution without an automated ticket number.

Example language for email mechanism implementation

If you believe there are websites or digital services with accessibility problems or you'd like to provide general accessibility feedback, you may make an inquiry or ask for help by emailing [insert email address]. We will confirm receipt of your inquiry within two business days and communicate throughout the process as we work to resolve your accessibility issue.

To ensure we can be most helpful to you, please include in your email:

  • A description of your accessibility problem with any information that will help us replicate the problem, such as browser, assistive technology, operating system.
  • The web address (URL) of the material with which you are having difficulty or specify the location of the issue if a URL cannot be provided.
  • Your contact information such as name.
  • If you'd like to receive communications regarding your issue.

Online Web-based Form 

Below are two examples of an online form implementation and instructions:

Considerations:

  • Submitters clearly know what data to provide.
  • Forms provide immediate confirmation of submission.
  • Forms have the potential for submitters to independently track resolution status depending on tracking system implementation.
  • Some forms may be able to provide an automatic ticket number to the submitter for tracking depending on agency implementation.
  • Captcha can minimize bot entries but must be Section 508 conformant.
  • Forms provide options to be fully anonymous, which could result in fake submissions.
  • Form intake requires a tracking system to realize efficiencies.
  • Agencies must ensure online form accessibility.
  • Users may not submit the form if it asks for more information than the submitter knows or wants to provide.

Example language for online form implementation

If you believe there are websites or digital services with accessibility problems, or you'd like to provide general accessibility feedback, you may contact us using the form below. We will confirm receipt of your submission within two business days and communicate throughout the process as we work to resolve your accessibility issue.

Form field elements:

  • Name (optional): [text input field]
  • Email Address (optional): [text input field]
  • Web Address (URL) or location of issue of a URL cannot be provided (optional): [text input field]
  • Description of your accessibility problem including any information that will help us replicate the problem, such as browser, assistive technology, operating system) *(required): [text input field]
  • If you'd like to receive communications regarding your issue (optional): Yes/No checkbox

Phone number:

Agencies may choose to include a phone number as an additional method to provide feedback. They should only do so if the phone is monitored during business hours and someone is available to accurately collect the verbal information.

Feedback Tracking and Reporting

Agencies should have a tracking method for public accessibility feedback received. At a minimum, agencies should be able to perform ticket intake, assign a reference ID, and assign the ticket to the responsible party for resolution. This may be via an application or other ticketing system used within the agency, but may also include using a spreadsheet or equivalent to track especially for smaller agencies.

  1. Clearly define roles and responsibilities:
    1. Define who is responsible for initial ticket input and who is responsible to route accessibility feedback appropriately such as to the product owner or to a vendor (Assistive Technology vendor, application vendor, etc.), or determine it is a user error. 
      1. It is recommended the Section 508 program is the point of contact to input or route accessibility feedback appropriately. However, other parties within the agency may have sufficient knowledge to route feedback appropriately; each agency should determine the most appropriate and knowledgeable responsible party. At a minimum, the agency Section 508 program should be consulted as an advisor in arbitration of accessibility feedback.
    2. Define who will track submission progress, closure, etc.
  2. Define what the definition of "done" is so that each responsible party for adjudicating the feedback to resolution understands expectations. Ownership of resolution duties within each agency will vary by responsible party and most likely will not be the Section 508 program.
    1. Set expectations for communication with the submitter. Considerations include:
      1. Within how many business days should the agency confirm receipt of the submitter's feedback and provide a reference ID for tracking? It is recommended agencies confirm receipt within 1 to2 business days. 
        1. Is there a template confirmation email that can be used?
        2. Can the intake system automatically generate a confirmation email with a reference ID?
      2. How frequently should the responsible party communicate with the submitter during adjudication?
        1. Only as needed?
        2. At minimum, a touchpoint once a month?
        3. Only upon resolution?
    2. Require communication to the submitter regarding the resolution or response of action to ensure their concerns are addressed.
  3. For each feedback submission, track, at a minimum:
    1. All information that was submitted in initial intake including date submitted.
    2. Any communication with the submitter to further understand the accessibility issue(s).
    3. Notes pertinent to resolution such as defect number, defect logged with external vendor, internal or external communications, etc.
    4. ICT type such as website, document, audio, video, software, hardware, kiosk, etc.
      1. Strongly consider tracking defects by Section 508/WCAG standard for awareness, training, and performance management.
    5. Documentation of final resolution.
    6. Date of final resolution.
    7. Consider regular reporting of metrics on public feedback to establish a baseline, generate benchmarks, inform technical assistance and training opportunities, and target policy updates.

Reviewed/Updated: March 2024

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