Fix the Web is, in the jargon of the day, a crowd sourcing project with the aim of changing the face of Web Accessibility. It is an opportunity for you to make a real difference in this area by volunteering your time, online, in a pretty simple way.
I work for a national charity, Citizens Online who is running the project in partnership with Nominet Trust, AbilityNet, Hanona, Bloor Research and others. Attempts to rectify web accessibility have seemed very top down, including useful, but nonetheless limited attempts to draw up standards and promote them, build business cases etc.
I asked myself where the voice of the average disabled person was in this and what role social media and “good geekery” could play? (I’m a self confessed “Geek Groupie” at Stroud’s Barcamp!). Fix the Web was borne out of those considerations and discussions with stakeholders. We got some funding from the Nominet Trust to take it forwards. I was always certain the techie community would be central to the success of the project (though I had to stop referring to you good folks as Hactivists because people thought I was proposing something illegal!).
The simple idea is that we want to make reporting inaccessible websites as easy as possible for disabled people. They can highlight any problems they are having in less than 60 seconds, then quickly move on, not having the burden of finding the right person to contact then constructing a considered email or filling out a form (which may finish with an inaccessible captcha!).
We have a few options for people to report: by a form on the site: http://www.fixtheweb.net, via twitter (#fixtheweb #fail, url and the problem) or by emailing email@example.com. However my “dream” was to a clickable toolbar which would capture the website details as be the easiest option. Steve Lee from Full Measure brokered an introduction, as part of his OSS Watch support activities provided to ATBar, to the folks at Southampton University who are developing the ATbar (formerly funded by TechDis). The development team of Sebastian Skuse, Dr Mike Wald and E.A. Draffan from the Learning Societies Lab at Southampton, have collaborated with Fix the Web to create a special Fix the Web button on the toolbar, not only making the reporting process as fast as possible, but opening up the project to the 2m current users of the toolbar.
The idea of the toolbar has also been supported by JISC-funded OSS Watch who provide advice on the use, development, and licensing of free source software. The team aim to build a community around the project and take it forward through their recently awarded JISC REALISE project. Over the last five months there have been over 1.8 million ‘toolbar hits’ on the ATBar.
The underlying ethos of Fix the Web is about raising awareness across the spectrum of understanding on this issue. So those who are clueless will get to hear about it, those who forget to consider it will find it further forwards in their thinking, those who know something will learn more, etc. And it is about empathizing with the barriers people face, whether in knowledge or power or current budgets and working with rather than naming and shaming.
It would be great to get more web standards folks involved in the project. You don’t need to be an expert in web accessibility to join in, but you may improve your knowledge by doing so. Volunteering takes place online, in your own preferred time. This is very much about a lot of people doing a little and over time collectively.
If that is enough information, I hope you are now feeling inspired to be a volunteer for Fix the Web. Please sign up at http://www.fixtheweb.net. Let’s make sure the web that we love is inclusive!