Fix the Web

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

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Birthing Fix the Web

Posted by gailbradbrook on November 23, 2010

A week or so after “delivering” (launching) Fix the Web I realise I’d been right when I told one of the coders of the site that it felt like having a baby! Having set a launch date and being busy with several rounds of bug and user testing we were of course still fixing issues up to the last minute. “Keep pushing” I said to the coder Ben Jarlett (he has been working with his brother Joe on the site and some web accessibility experts).

So the baby came and we launched and got lots of nice coverage. The traffic on the site is heartening. And of course there are glitches and hitches. People have said my baby isn’t beautiful ! Fortunately I’m not too sensitive about this, as some mothers might be (my second baby, did in my own words at 10 and a half pounds and well squashed, look like Chairman Mao). The design needs a think through according to a few people- it would be good they say, to not equate accessible with ugly.

We had some accessibility issues ourselves with the Fix the Web site – embarrassingly of course and somehow I knew it would happen! Sorry for this folks! I think its good to be humbled and as someone who has some responsibility for a few sites I would hate to be casting stones (she who is without sin). On the one hand I feel strongly we shouldn’t compromise on the issue of web accessibility, in terms of what we expect and ask for. On the other, I have a degree of sympathy with website owners and think experts need to afford the rest of us some time to catch up.

It would be useful to know who is and isn’t an expert when owners want to get advice or build a new site. At the moment I believe there is no qualification as such. We have a few links to things that can help and I know an association is thinking about this…

I will be setting up a steering group for Fix the Web’s development- lots to discuss and think about, many people have made suggestions for improvements. Let me know if you would like to be on the group. I have kind of had a steering group to date of course, but time to widen it and be a tad more formal.

I have a general ethos for us to be open / transparent..but needing to think through risks and keep the site simple. So some changes will take time to come through..

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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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Fix the Web Sept 2010 Newsletter

Posted by gailbradbrook on September 30, 2010

Hello!

Fix the Web is an innovative project to address the issue of web accessibility for disabled people. Our aim is to make the reporting of web access issues very simple for disabled people, with a bank of volunteers taking issues forwards (and therefore learning useful things themselves!).

You can find out more on our interim website (http://www.fixtheweb.net).

This is an update on progress and has information on how you can help.

  1. Full website – this is now coded and undergoing bug testing, it is a database driven process to support those reporting issues and those taking them forwards with web owners. We need help with bug testing – to check that both the processes work and that the messages we give at different stages make sense and are the right ones. If you are willing to look it over in the next couple of weeks, whether briefly or in detail, please be in touch.
  2. PR and Marketing – we are planning to launch the site and project in early November. If you can help by sending messages on to your networks, newsletters, tweeting, etc please be in touch with my colleague Nicky Ferry (pumpkin.commsATvirgin.net) who is supported this aspect. Nicky may well also chase you up on this too.
  3. Stories and Statistics – to bring our press releases alive are needed, facts and experiences about disabled people’s good and bad experiences online, techies positive messages about wanting to make a difference, etc. Please let us know if you have something to share or are willing to have quotes ascribed to you. We understand there has been benchmarking on web accessibility, but may not have all the research to hand- let us know what you know!
  4. Logos –if you have contributed time to Fix the Web’s development (or are about to as a thorough bug-tester) and would like to be listed as a partner, please send in a logo for the partners page.
  5. Sponsorship – we are looking at a variety of means to fund the coordination of FTW (which should be light weight once its fully off the ground). One means is sponsorship. If you are interested, please be in touch.
  6. Browser extension – we are looking for a techie to code us a browser extension a bit like this one (http://www.afb.org/aap.asp?Action=Download) but compatible with a bigger variety of browsers, let me know if you are interested.

Thanks for your support and any help you are able to offer.

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Useful research

Posted by gailbradbrook on September 23, 2010

Lots of people were interested in this fact that 30.4% of a blind persons time is wasted on e-access issues- the research is here- (this is a PDF file)

IJHCI_blind_user_frustration

please do let me know if you have any other facts and figures- it will be really useful for promoting fix the web.

Also, how do we benchmark global web-accessibility- who does the ongoing representative study?

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Wanted! technology skills

Posted by gailbradbrook on June 30, 2010

Of various shapes and sizes… for Fix the Web project

Calling all those within the open source, good geekery, happy to help hactivist community. I’m looking for techies prepared to offer some free help to Fix the Web, this essential and great cause of making the web we love available to everyone equally (see home page for more info).

Is there anyone out there who can help with the following (some of which are posted on IT4communities but volunteers haven’t stepped up yet):

1. Creating a specification for a volunteer / web enabled problem reporting system (see 1 below)

2. Help with a facebook / tweetdeck issue (see 2 below)- thanks to Michael Philips, 64-Bit computing (via IT4C) , in progress

3. Building a 5 page website with forms for expressing interest, twitter feed

4. Add ons to website eg being able to email a complaint about a website that is stored into a database, twitter mining capabilities

5. Feedback on how to integrate / use Helen toolbar (a browser extension):

http://www.afb.org/AAP.asp?Action=Download

Huge thanks and great +ve karma available, plus free holiday in the Cotswolds for extra effort!
email gailATcitizensonline.org.uk

All can be provided online so location is not important.

1. Fix the Web Create Spec for Website to Report/Improve Inaccessible Websites
Here’s a really interesting project that will look good in your CV, and will make the web that much easier to use for people with disabilities. This established charity based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, focuses on digital inclusion. Their aim is to have a web enabled mechanism in which disabled people can report an e-accessibility issue with a website in under one minute. An IT volunteer will manage the issue and work with the web owner to resolve it.This will need mechanisms for sign-up of volunteers and disabled people, an easy to use and quick method to report the e-accessibility issues and identify the websites, a means of marking fixed issues, as well as management processes and reports, and support mechanisms and links to resources for participants.They have prepared a project overview.They would like you to produce a detailed outline specification, so that the options for its delivery and the likely resources needed can be discussed.Part of this will involve taking part in one or more conference calls with project sponsors and other interested parties early in the project.They’re expecting to come back to iT4Communities to find volunteers to create a detailed design specification, build the functionality needed, and someone to do the project management.
2 Help with Facebook
Fix the Web have a Facebook page, and they would like to talk to you to find out how to achieve bits of functionality. Tweetdeck seems to be sending feeds to a personal Facebook page rather than the charity’s Facebook page, which is where it’s needed, and they need your advice to correct this.

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A #Fix the Web Campaign

Posted by gailbradbrook on June 30, 2010

Some notes from our June 24th 2010 meeting

Present:
Gail Bradbrook Citizens Online, Leonie Watson Nomensa, Adam Oliver BT, John Lamb Ability, Sal Cooke TechDis, Robin Christopherson AbilityNet, Jeremy Ruston BT, David Cushman 9010,

Aims of the call / meeting:
Develop an action plan basis for a campaign to Fix the Web and contextualize it- how will we take it forwards?

Key points made:

1. Be led by the people- raise the issue amongst a large body of techy geekery using a #fixtheweb
Matt at Osmosoft can help penetrate that community, and others on the call have links into a variety of databases etc.

2. When people think they have an issue it can be they don’t know how to use the tools for access that they have- we can give people information about this based on available materials (Leonie knows where they are) and link to wider places for support.

3. Fix my street. Com is a good example of what we might wish to look like

4. A website is an important starting point (beyond the blog) we need a focal point and a fix the web twitter account.
Need to lay out what people do with the #tag and describe it and archiving tweets is important. Leonie can help with content- need to get some developer help.

5. Small business scheme through BIS could be a good reference for reaching out. Also googles Julian Hartley.

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Piecing our jigsaw together

Posted by gailbradbrook on June 14, 2010

We had a conference call for the Fix the Web to review the mapping paper (on the home page to the left) and consider if it offers a way forwards for e-accessibility.

We discussed the following (and if I missed anything contributors or those who couldn’t be there feel free to add by commenting on this post):

-the scale of the issues we are dealing with- in principle the method proposed could deal with them all, we would just need to accept some are “slower burn” than others. Web development tools will be an important category to tackle. Overtime you have the data which could underpin legal approaches.

-volunteers would need to be pretty skilled in dealing with some issues- after a while we would ensure web owners are signposted to more expert sources of help (and anticipate paying for that) and also volunteers could be supported by GAWDS members- there would be a business case for GAWDS folks in doing that (see weblinks / blogroll to left for GAWDS)

-for some users the issues may be related to their own knowledge of the software (eg Jaws) that they are using.

-twitter is a resource for accessing owners eg if we wonder “who is in charge of facebook?”)

-there will be new pressures relating to Open Government and Big Society.

-the new paper clarifies that this is an activist issue- rewired state (who sponsor hack days) might be a good model

-for BT there is a business case for involvement- for both customers and staff

-from a fixing perspective a browser extension might be the best way forwards, like bookmarklett

-in the meantime, understanding the appetite for change, we should develop a twitter based campaign and hash tag (#fixtheweb) and can use twitter mining tools. Could use paralympics as a focus.

-a meeting required to action plan establishing a campaign

Peter Abrahams sent the following in follow up:

The idea of browser extensions seems a good way forward and I did a little bit of digging and in Firefox there is a function in Help called ‘Report a broken website’ and it includes an option on accessibility see http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/New+Accessibility+features+in+Firefox+3#_quot_Report_a_broken_website_quot_tool_now_has_an_Accessibility_option .

What it does not explain is what happens to the report so I have put in a support question  see http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/forum/1/694766? .

I think we would have to extend this function so that it was specific for accessibility, included the email address of the user and maybe had some basic tick boxes to define the type of problem. But in principle it shows that reports could be generated within a minute.

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Blogging against Disablism – the meaning of silence

Posted by gailbradbrook on April 30, 2010

Blogging Against Disablism DayBlogging Against Disablism logo in colour, stick men in lots of colour plus one wheelchair

Kevin Carey (Chair, RNIB, Chair, humanity, Head eInclusion Consultancy, ATcare) gave a fantastic presentation this week at the first BIS hosted e-Accessibility Forum. It was a clear and succinct overview of how to ensure disabled people can be part of Digital Britain. It focused on market forces and legal aspects and had a focused approach to future proofing standards. It seemed to me the work of a genius, a person who surpasses probably everyone in the UK, if not Europe, in his depth and breadth of subject knowledge. (Please email me if you want a copy of the documents)

Apart from a few questions and comments on details I would say it was largely met by silence by those hosting the meeting. There was no response to say “we take what you say very seriously and here is how we are embedding it into our thinking”. It felt like box ticking (yes we “listened” to the blind guy who is an expert, wasn’t it a nice “thought provoking” piece, now let’s move on to tinkering at the edges of this agenda). I made an impassioned plea to build our action planning with Kevin’s thinking at the heart of it – more silence. These are civil servants with a job to do. I’ve been around that before, the job is to not do, except what is already happening, which is failing. And of course they are good people. Tired and pissed off though he must be, Kevin has this paper higher up the food chain and he is making progress (power to your elbow!).

Silence is one malevolent element of oppressive behavior. It is insidious and murderous. To an able bodied person, our silence can feel numb, meaning well, being polite. I apologize. I apologize for when I do this. It must be the creeping behavior that fills all the gaps around the blatant stuff, making one big package that could drive a person nuts.

When, as an able bodied person, you can meet your silence and be aware of it, you find that it contains deep, deep separation which is heart breaking. It is the removal of the core of our humanity. Its making us ill, its making sicken for that something in our lives which is crushing in its absence. How can we talk about things not being “possible” or “affordable” when they are everything that we need, when it is about meeting our hearts longing?

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Working together for Inclusion

Posted by gailbradbrook on March 10, 2010

A disabled=I’m aware my last post- suggesting that some sites might be acceptably accessible, could be interpreted as another effort to get disabled people to put up with crap.

It was about not waiting to have accessibility “bestowed on us” by some higher authority with a fat cheque book and power.

Community and relationships and dialogue are not “clean” processes but when coming from a human place they will find their own way. The things that matter should get sorted. I don’t want us all to feel the e-access is something too big for us, something that’s just needs money. That seems to buy into all the separation and fear.

A big influence in my life has been Micheline Mason (www.michelinemason.com) campaigner for inclusion who described the efforts to fix the world to date, as like a big jigsaw puzzle being pieced together. We couldn’t get it finished because we missed out a key piece; we needed to start again- with inclusion as the central part.

“Inclusion is not an easy option. It is difficult because it requires people to examine their deepest held prejudices and fears; it asks people to learn new skills; it means people have to think creatively and design individual solutions for unique people; it means doing things differently and risking failure.”

And from her Poem “Beware the Baubles”

Put away your cheque books
Bring us in close to the beating pulse
Of shared messy, risky, noisy days
Where we all have complex needs
We will learn then all that matters
And so will you.

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the chicken and the creme egg

Posted by gailbradbrook on March 8, 2010

Wrapper from a creme egg showing the chicksSo I want to start a process to think about how social media can help Fix the Web (e-accessibility for disabled people). I’ve been chatting on email to various contacts but given this is a social media focussed project it made sense to think about communicating that way. Especially since at some point, there should be a website to promote through the networked world…

David Cushman (and his lovely family) came to visit this weekend, he is a Trustee of Citizens Online and an expert in Social Media. So we had a good natter and decided the best next step was to start a blog. I did used to have a website (anyone remember Geocities) but it was taken down even before they went under (it was about having a baby and my Demi Moore shots may have triggered alarms).

OK David I say, how do I make sure my blog is accessible to disabled people? We realise neither of us know and a cursory search doesn’t seem to help much. So I’m blogging about getting together an accessible social media website without knowing whether my site is or not. And if I don’t blog about it in real time I may lose some of the detail of the journey. I hope through blogging I’ll figure out having an accessible blog, but I don’t really know which should come first. I don’t know much about blogging or e-accessibility (I have other strengths to bring to this project!) and I think that lack of knowledge should have its benefits. I want to help create a solution that works for the average user…

The result of David’s tweeting to find out more:

“WordPress has more accessibility plugins than you can shake a stick at”

Should I need to stick in plugins? Shouldn’t this be built in? (I’m not 100% sure of what a plugin is btw)

“Wordpress is prob best. But the issue is more with the HTML and various widgets and applications than the blog platform itself”

So I might add in stuff that I think is cool and as a result be excluding people…ooohh…

AbilityNet (the national charity focused on adapting ICT for disability, health etc) says it has these accessibility features:

· a skip to content link to help screen reader and keyboard users access content quickly

· a search facility and sitemap

· alternative stylesheets (or viewing themes), including a linearised version with large text and a version designed to assist reading for visitors with dyslexia

· resizable text

· a flexible page layout (the centre column resizes with the width of your browser window)

I’m having a girlie time flicking through the themes you can have for your blog, but wondering which ones have any accessibility features built in- this doesn’t seem to be something you can filter for. I couldn’t find accessibility information from the general introductory stuff for WordPress, David got some info via a tweet:

“Here’s a link re wordpress and accessibility: http://codex.wordpress.org/Accessibility

This page starts with the inviting sentence: “Accessibility is for everyone, even WordPress users. But what is it?”

But it soon gets all techy on me:

“WordPress works right out of the box to help you keep your site accessible. Unfortunately, not all WordPress Theme authors take the time and patience to maintain those accessibility standards. Here is an example of using the title in a link in the index.php and the WordPress Loop:


permalink() ?>" rel="bookmark"

title="Permanent Link to php the_title(); ?>">

Let’s look at this. There is a link inside of the h2 tag for the title of the post. Inside of the link is a call to the permalink, the address of the post. It is followed by a rel which attaches a relationship to the link as a bookmark. This is followed by the title. In this case, it says “Permanent Link to” and then the title of the post, which is automatically generated by the the_title() template tag. The title tag is then used again as the name of the link.”

I’m on the second creme egg and feeling quite lost. I think more research is needed. I’m looking at this blog post and thinking christ the text is small, what if someone needs it bigger? This may be a chicken that gets rehatched soon….

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