Fix the Web

Harnessing the power of networks to make the web accessible for everyone.

Press Release- Launch of Fix the Web Nov 15th 2010

Posted by gailbradbrook on November 12, 2010

An ingenious new campaign called Fix the Web is being launched this week (w/c November 15) to tackle the problem of inaccessible websites on a massive scale.  Fix the Web is an initiative of Citizens Online(i), a national charity that campaigns for internet access for all.

The internet has been a liberating force in the lives of many disabled people, opening up a wonderful new world of communication, ideas and networks.  In theory, it should have created a level playing field.

Unfortunately, millions of disabled and older people are excluded from easily navigating their way around the web.  To compound the problem, it is often difficult to complain about the offending sites. Fix the Web (http://www.fixtheweb.net) has been launched to provide a quick and easy way for people to make complaints – as well as to introduce a volunteer-led process for those complaints to be reported back to website owners to get fixed.

The reporting process for a disabled person will take less than a minute and is easily done through a form on the site: http://www.fixtheweb.net, via twitter (#fixtheweb #fail, url and the problem) or by emailing post@fixtheweb.net. There will also be a toolbar for browsers developed by Southampton University, which includes a reporting button.

The majority of websites are simply not designed with accessibility for all in mind, despite the proven business case for inclusion. With around 6 million excluded disabled and older people in the UK with a combined spending power of £50 – 60 billion(ii), in purely commercial terms, inaccessible sites are clearly losing out.

Leonie Watson, who is blind, comments:

“I do most of my shopping online, especially at Christmas, as it’s more convenient.  I’m surprised by how many retailers just don’t get accessibility. If their website isn’t accessible with my screen reader, I won’t spend my money there. It’s basic business logic really – more accessibility, more people, more potential revenue.”

We expect to see ramps, extra wide doorways and adapted toilet facilities in the built environment.  But, what about the equivalent on-line? Do we consider that websites might need their own virtual ramps?  Apparently not, despite the fact laws are in place to ensure that we do(iii).  Blind users report losing, on average, 30.4% of their time due to web access issues (iv). The World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines found that only 19% of the websites met the minimum standard for web access, with only two meeting level-2 compliance and none achieving the highest level.

Mandy de la Mare, affected by Thalidomide, was born with no arms and is now blind. She comments:

“Many sites are exasperating, despite the fact I use technology that has been adapted to read text and that allows me to use a keyboard.  I have tried complaining to various websites but either the forms are not accessible for me or if I do manage to lodge a complaint, I don’t get a reply. This is why I am a great believer in Fix the Web.”

Citizens Online believes that disabled people should not be expected to fight their corner alone.  For this reason Fix the Web is recruiting a huge taskforce of tech volunteers to champion the cause and report problems back to web owners. The project aims to have 10,000 volunteers dealing with 250,000 websites within two years of launch.  This will ensure that disabled users can make complaints quickly in the knowledge that there will be technical support on hand to take things forward on their behalf.

Fix the Web has been made available as a result of seed funding from Nominet Trust(v) and partners such as AbilityNet(vi) and Hanona(vii). The aim of Fix the Web is to introduce cultural change across the web, making it a more accessible and inclusive place where the needs of disabled people are taken into consideration and vital change can be made.

Dr. Gail Bradbrook of Citizens Online comments:

“I believe many techies would be horrified to think that the Web they love so much is excluding people. I firmly believe that this isn’t a problem disabled people should have to deal with on their own. It’s time a committed group of tech volunteers took charge of the issue and made it their own.”

If you want to offer your technical skills to support the Fix the Web campaign or find out more, visit: http://www.fixtheweb.net.

– ends –

Contact: Nicky Ferry for spokespeople, images & further information (Please note: we have considerable information and data from Business, Legal, Government & Human Interest angles), Tel: 01453 766 334

Mob: 07974 446 780 Email: pumpkin.comms@virgin.net

Notes for Editors

(i)          Citizens Online is a national charity that believes participation in the digital world is a basic human right. As a result it is committed to promoting digital inclusion. It is their aim to ensure that the benefits of digital technologies can be enjoyed and shared by everybody, so that our society may become more inclusive and just. www.citizensonline.org.uk

(ii)         With a potential UK market of 1.6 million registered blind users, 1.5 million people with cognitive difficulties and a further 3.4 million with disabilities preventing them from using the standard keyboard, screen and mouse set-up with ease, e-businesses are losing out on some £50 – £60 billion per year buying power by not having fully accessible web sites, says AbilityNet.

(iii)        The Disability Discrimination Act 1995, (the DDA), was introduced with the intention of comprehensively tackling the discrimination which many disabled people face. The main part of the DDA that applies to websites and requires them to be accessible came into force on 1 October 1999. Further changes were made to the Act in 2005, which required certain employers and service providers previously exempt from the Act (such as the police and small employers) to comply with the Act and therefore make their websites accessible. Changes to the Act in 2005 also brought in a duty on public authorities to promote disability equality. The RNIB is currently pursuing cases involving the accessibility of two airline websites where the date picker on the sites is not accessible to screen readers, a bank website (online banking) where the log-in procedures are not accessible to screen readers and a local authority (housing) website where prospective tenants have to bid for properties online but the site is inaccessible.  They are aware of other complaints about airline websites, about certain online retailers and online banks and other Government websites. “RNIB takes website accessibility very seriously and we are keen to ensure that website providers understand their obligations under the new Equality Act 2010. Where we come across websites that are not accessible, we aim to work with the companies to resolve the problems.  However, if this is not possible we will consider legal action.”

(iv)       According to a study of 100 blind users published in the International Journal of Human Computer Interaction Authors: Jonathan Lazara; Aaron Allena; Jason Kleinmana; Chris Malarke Volume 22, Issue 3 May 2007, pages 247 – 269.

(v)          Nominet Trust is a charity launched in 2008 to mobilise the internet for social good. To the majority of Internet users, the name Nominet remains largely unknown, but for millions of website owners in the UK, Nominet provides registration and administration support for their .uk domains. For Nominet Trust – the organisation’s charitable arm – it’s the users that are the primary focus, and the Trust funds in distinctive and innovative IT-related projects that make a difference to people’s lives, particularly in the areas of web access, education and safety. The Trust also supports projects that use the internet imaginatively to address specific social problems.  Almost ten million people in the UK have never been online and four million of those are amongst the country’s most socially excluded. So the people who have the most to gain from the Internet – whether to overcome isolation, to save money or to find help – are the ones who are missing out. Nominet Trust seeks to redress these imbalances by funding projects that give people the skills and tools to be online safely and responsibly. www.nominettrust.org.uk

(vi)       AbilityNet is a registered national charity (charity no. 1067673) with over 20 years experience helping people adapt and adjust their information and communications technology (ICT). Their work is unique, working across the UK and beyond. Their special expertise is ensuring that whatever an individual’s age, health condition, disability or situation they find exactly the right way to adapt or adjust their ICT to make it easier to use.

(vii)      Hanona is a group of specialists in web accessibility and digital inclusion. http://www.hanona.org/

An ingenious new campaign called Fix the Web is being launched this week (w/c November 15) to tackle the problem of inaccessible websites on a massive scale.  Fix the Web is an initiative of Citizens Online(i), a national charity that campaigns for internet access for all.

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