September 26th, 2011
Some 60% of website owners contacted about accessibility problems by the national ‘FixTheWeb’ project either ignore the contact or “duck the issue”, according to the project’s director. And just 10% take action immediately to fix the problem.
FixTheWeb is a national programme allowing any disabled person encountering accessibility problems online to inform a group of volunteers – now morethan 600-strong – who will pursue the issue with the website owner on their behalf. Volunteers can be contacted using email, Twitter, a web form or a special browser toolbar, allowing anyone to report any web accessibility issue quickly and easily. The project is led by the digital inclusion charity Citizens Online with funding from Nominet Trust.
So far about 700 websites have been reported through the service, Gail Bradbrook, the project’s manager, told the second annual Web Accessibility London Unconference at City University last week. However of these, only about 50 have been fixed by their owners.
In all, 40% of contacts made by volunteers received no response at all, said Bradbrook: “Somebody probably chose to ignore it, unless we got spam filtered.” In a further 20% of cases the volunteers were “fobbed off, with people kind of acknowledging issue but ducking it”, she said, or in some cases showing they had not previously registered the issue of accessibility at all.
Some 30% of people contacted agree they have an accessibility problem and say they can’t deal with it now, but it does matter to them and they will try and address it in future, she said. And in 10% of cases the problem is fixed right away, with half of these needing help to do so.
However even in cases where no response at all is received, the project may be achieving something by raising awareness that accessibility problems exist and that people are noticing them, Bradbrook said.
One of the project’s high points so far came when actor, writer and technology lover Stephen Fry posted a message of support for the campaign, with the resulting PR boost producing its biggest rise in activity to date, she said.
FixTheWeb is currently focused on the UK but is now looking for partners to go global, Bradbrook said. Within Europe, it is already in the process of setting up a key partnership with eAccess+ , a European network of e-accessibility experts.