A Strongly Worded Letter

Last week while whining about having accessibility contributions to FOSS projects dismissed, I had a Twitter conversation about when the same thing happens with clients. I have a method to deal with that, however, which I briefly outlined on Twitter. I promised to expand on it in a blog post, so here it is.

Document It

It is not uncommon for me to make accessibility recommendations to a client only for the client to resist (for reasons). It is important to make sure your advice is provided either as part of a deliverable (such as a report) or a letter (email can work). Ideally you want to ensure the client acknowledges receipt.

Heads-up

If the client is obstinate, even after providing warnings of legal risks, going against guidelines, bumping against policies, or just being mean to users, then I give the client a heads-up that I will ask for sign-off. If I can do it tactfully, I also note that in the case of an accessibility-related lawsuit, all this correspondence will be part of a discovery process. I know this because I will volunteer it.

Often that is enough. They may think I am being an ass, but there are cases where I just do not care.

The Letter

I already set the expectation for the client, so this part is straightforward. I use letterhead and I create a fancy-looking proper business letter.

I outline my recommendation and when I initially provided it in an opening as you know statement. I also state that the client has declined to take my recommendation and when that occurred. If I am being grumpy I include the correspondence as attachments to the letter.

Then I have a section where the client agrees to indemnify and hold harmless me / my company against any losses, liabilities, or claims resulting from not following the recommendation.

That last part is a bit tricky. Your contact may not have the authority to enter a legal agreement (perceived or otherwise). You may need to exclude it, you may need to ask for someone with signing authority, you may need to go over a head. It depends.

Finally I provide a place for my client to sign and date the letter and I make sure to bring two copies — one for them to keep and one for me. I avoid photocopying it (or scanning/printing, which is what the cool kids do) since I prefer using two originals.

Mini Example

This is off the the top of my head, not a copy from a real letter.

As you know, I have recommended you add keyboard support to your navigation menus. I have done this in the deliverable report for Project Name, provided Day, Month Year, and again in follow-up correspondence dated Day, Month, Year and attached to this letter.

You have opted to retain the existing navigation per the attached correspondence dated Day, Month, Year and attached to this letter. This letter is to record that decision. Further, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless My Company Name from any losses, liabilities, or claims resulting from not following the recommendation I provided above.

Please sign below acknowledging this letter.

Name:
Title:
Date:

Am I a Lawyer?

No.

Caveats

You have to be able to read the room. This can be a fantastically jerk move with some clients and cost you business. Maybe do not send it in anger. Maybe make sure you are comfortable with this confrontational approach.

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