An ingenious new campaign called Fix the Web has been launched to tackle the problem of inaccessible websites on a massive scale. Fix the Web is an initiative of Citizens Online, a UK 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 because the web sites have not been designed correctly. To compound the problem, it is often difficult to complain about the offending sites. Fix the Web 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.
Fix the Web is calling on disabled people to start reporting now. The process takes less than a minute and is easily done through a form on the site: http://ww.fixtheweb.net, via twitter (#fixtheweb #fail, url and the problem) or by emailing email@example.com.
A volunteer picks up the report and checks if it is a real problem and then finds out where to report the problem (this is sometimes a complex problem when a website does not have an easy ‘contact us’ facility). The volunteer reports the problem to the website owner and is responsible for getting an answer and hopefully a resolution of the issue.
I would hope that many of my readers will become volunteers. Besides helping the community, being a volunteer should increase your understanding of what makes sites inaccessible and therefore help in the design of websites and development tools. Following the guidelines in WCAG is good but making web sites that are accessible is better.
I would also urge my readers to report problems; you do not have to be disabled to recognise accessibility issues. If you see one report it; it might be an alt text missing or an alt text that does not describe the image, or it might b a button that is only accessible with a mouse, or flashing images, or lack of colour contrast. I am now a reporter and I make it really easy for myself by always having a tab on my browser with the reportng form open. When I am browsing the web and I see a problem, I copy the URL, switch to the Fix The Web tab, paste the URL and then fill in the rest of the form. Literally less than a minute.