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‘Fix the Web’ Project Makes Early Impact

A three-month-old project using ‘crowdsourcing’ to improve the accessibility of websites for disabled people has already helped to solve problems with 26 sites, including those of the BBC and a large UK building society, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

The Fix the Web project ( http://www.fixtheweb.net/ ), which launched in November and was previewed in our September issue ( http://bit.ly/eQDmpC ), recruits volunteers to contact website owners on behalf of disabled internet users who encounter access problems.

Users contact Fix the Web with complaints through the Fix the Web site, email, Twitter or a new toolbar, developed by the University of Southampton ( http://bit.ly/exuzAc ), and the volunteers then take up the complaints on their behalf, allowing people to report any problems in one simple step.

Coventry Building Society (CBS) was one company contacted by Fix the Web after a disabled computer user experienced problems logging into its online banking services using an assistive technology head-operated mouse. The issue was found to be related to a function of the Trusteer Rapport security software recommended by CBS. Both CBS and Trusteer worked with Fix the Web, and have agreed to update their user instructions.

Other companies that have resolved website issues flagged up by Fix the Web include several BBC sites, with work on tagging of images and resizing of text, and Doodle (an online scheduling service), which is currently working on making its site more accessible to screen-readers.

“Website owners have responded well and have been keen to resolve issues and work with us”, Fix the Web spokesperson Nicky Ferry told E-Access Bulletin. “We’re not taking a name-and-shame approach or trying to make people look bad. Our work is much more collaborative”, she said.

Future plans for Fix the Web include looking at creating a ‘two-tier’ system of volunteers (as some posses technical web knowledge and can assist in fixing the flagged problems), and also to take the project to an international level in the long-term: “Once we feel that the system is robust enough, we will look at taking it into a European context and then globally. For it to be of real effect, it should be a global project”, said Ferry.

The project has also received celebrity endorsement, with the actor, comedian and technology fan Stephen Fry publicly backing the campaign this month.

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