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Site Owners Ignore Requests to ‘Fix The Web’

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.


  1. Hugh Huddy | September 27th, 2011 | 10:36 am

    i worry people might lose interest if success is only 1 in 10 – are the ignorers named and shamed somewhere as an incentive to take it seriously?

  2. G F Mueden | September 27th, 2011 | 12:01 pm

    The shoemakers child is barefoot. E-Access Bulletin came by email in a small light font illegile to my old eyes; it had disabled my accessibility setting for choice of font for incoming text. I had to reset to read in plain text.

    The problem is common. The White House always does it; the NYTimes frequently but does provide for feedback.
    Google, distributing for others, does it frequently and accepts feedback by snail mail only. My screenshots of one good NYTimes News Alert and on bad on the same day have been forwarded to the as appropriate but it is too soon for a response. I hope they will report what does it. ===gm===

  3. Dan Jellinek | September 27th, 2011 | 1:22 pm

    To G F Mueden, above:
    I am sorry to hear this – to send out the newsletter we first paste the copy into a plain text editor, then we set the email to plain text as well so there is no HTML or macros or anything and send it out.
    The intention is that the email should arrive as plain unicode text, no more and no less, and certainly should be adjustable.
    So I’m not sure what more we can do – does anyone have any ideas?

  4. Veronique Palmer | September 27th, 2011 | 2:34 pm

    You know what would be cool – if you could get someone to build a tool that automatically asesses websites, (if that’s possible). That way site owners could enter their links and get a report. Then your list of people who could fix it would be really handy.

  5. Jim Tobias | September 27th, 2011 | 3:52 pm

    I actually think that 10% is a great success, considering that the notification comes to the website owner unsolicited. And another 30% that don’t fix it right away are going to be reachable somehow.

  6. Gail Bradbrook | September 28th, 2011 | 4:44 pm

    I run Fix the web and appreciate the comments here.
    I did say at the time these are guestimate figures and by no means “scientific”.

    I agree with the first and 5th comments.

    I would say re the 1st that we may be able to improve out outputs if we could implement some system changes (we are struggling with funds unfortunately. Mainly though, I want reporters to feel that is is worth reporting for a few reasons:
    *it takes less than 60 seconds to report, so its not like a big waste of time
    *getting the message through to people is part of awareness raising- change will come over time, people may duck a couple of times but realise they have to improve their practice
    *as Jim says 1 in 10 is something of value- if we work to volume then we start to make some huge changes across the net.

    Its a lot about volume here (and a bit about quality of process too) – so can I keep encouraging disabled people to report and people to volunteer to take issues forwards. Using the toolbar (ATbar) on the front of the site makes reporting even easier.

    (Veronique btw- they exist, user feedback is really valuable though for a number of reasons).

  7. Ranti Junus | October 3rd, 2011 | 1:47 am

    Veronique: such tool does exist. WebAIM ( is the one I use often whenever I want to assess a website. The report shows what was wrong with the coding so it only makes more sense to the web developers. The tool doesn’t show whether the website itself makes sense. As Gail pointed out, user feedback is quite valuable. Combining both type of assessments would be a great way to fix the problem.

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