Fix the Web – Be a Web Fixer!

Last updated: May 27, 2016

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It's nearly a year since the Fix the Web campaign was launched. It takes a while to fix "the interwebs", so let's revisit a press release from this past February. It contains many good reminders for us all! This is posted with permission from Nick Ferry, Pumpkin Communications, UK, and Gail Bradbrook, Fix the Web. There are footnotes in parentheses, which are listed at the end of the press release.

The Fix the Web Press Release

Stephen Fry is backing an ingenious new campaign called Fix the Web that has been launched 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.

Logo for Fix the web
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 prevented from easily navigating the web. 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 disabled people to make complaints – as well as get volunteers on board to take complaints back to website owners to get fixed.

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, with 80% of sites failing to meet even minimum standards(ii) and despite the fact laws are in place to ensure that we do(ii). Blind users report losing, on average, 30.4% of their time with web access issues(iii).

Stephen Fry comments:

We all expect a few glitches when we go on line, but when it comes to accessibility for disabled and older people, the problem is colossal. Fix the Web is doing something about it in a positive and practical way – I urge you to get involved and help get this problem fixed. Fix the Web gets to the very heart of the problem – it's pure genius!

Fix the Web is taking a big society approach to the problem, aiming to have 10,000 volunteers dealing with 250,000 websites within the next two years. Volunteers are already signing up, but thousands more are needed. It isn't time consuming and you are likely to develop new skills in the process. Volunteers can work on the campaign in their own time and whenever suits them.

Here's what volunteer Graham Armfield of Coolfields Consulting said about his experience of volunteering for Fix the Web:

Volunteering for Fix the Web has been a rewarding experience for me and it's great to put my skills to good use. The flexible nature of being a volunteer means that I can work on Fix the Web tasks when it suits me. I believe the initiative will be successful as it focuses on the issues real people are having with websites, and that strikes a chord with website owners. We can make the web a more accessible place – one step at a time.

Fix the Web has been made available as a result of seed funding from Nominet Trust(iv) and is working in partnership with AbilityNet(v), Bloor Research(vi), The Learning Societies Lab (LSL)(vii) and Nomensa(viii). The aim of Fix the Web is to introduce cultural change across the web, making it a more accessible place where the needs of disabled people are taken into consideration and vital change can be made.

If you are a disabled person wanting to report a problem to Fix the Web, there are 4 quick options to choose from:

  1. Fill in a form on the site https://www.fixtheweb.net.
  2. Use twitter (#fixtheweb #fail, url and the problem)
  3. Email: email hidden; JavaScript is required
  4. Download a toolbar available on the site for browsers, developed by Southampton University, which includes a reporting button.

If you want to volunteer and support the Fix the Web campaign or to find out more, visit https://www.fixtheweb.net.

Press Release contact information

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: email hidden; JavaScript is required

Notes for Editors (Footnotes)

(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.

(ii) The requirement of the Equality Act (that supercedes The 1995 disability Discrimination Act), which came into force as of 1 October 2010, is to make 'information' accessible, not just (nor specifically named) websites. Specifically section 20, subsection (6): 'Where the first or third requirement relates to the provision of information, the steps which it is reasonable for A to have to take include steps for ensuring that in the circumstances concerned the information is provided in an accessible format.' 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."

(iii) 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.

(iv) 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. 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.

(v) 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.

(vi) Bloor Research is one of Europe's leading IT research, analysis and consultancy organisations. Working to bring greater agility to corporate IT systems through the effective governance, management and leverage of Information, Bloor Research has built a reputation for 'telling the right story' with independent, intelligent, well-articulated communications content and publications.

(vii) The Learning Societies Lab (LSL) is a multidisciplinary research group in the School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton. The LSL brings together perspectives from computer science, psychology, education and the social sciences, and develops leading-edge technologies and applies them to enhancing formal and informal learning in personal and collaborative settings.

(vii) Nomensa is a digital agency, which specializes in perfecting online user experience, web accessibility and web design. Nomensa delivers compelling user experience research and design services that improve how people use the web and digital technologies.

Beach Wheelchair Available for Community Use

Last updated: March 5, 2015

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beaches-wheelchair

Sutherland Shire Council in New South Wales, Australia, has a beach wheelchair available for community use at Cronulla Beach (South Cronulla). The wheelchair allows access to the beach for people who use wheelchairs or who find the beachfront difficult to negotiate. The chair is available free of charge for short term loans.

beach-wheelchair

The chair is available 7 days a week from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. in summer and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. in winter.

Read more at Sutherland Shire Council Beach Services: Beach Wheelchair.

UK Beach Wheelchairs

There are also Beach Wheelchairs for Hire at some of England's beaches.

World Usability Day 2009: Sustainability and Accessibility

Last updated: May 27, 2016

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Today marks another World Usability Day with the theme of "Sustainability".

What is World Usability Day?

World Usability Day was founded to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use. Each year, it has a specific focus and is honored around the world on the second Thursday of the month of November.

The sustainability theme is divided into four "pillars":

  • Environmental
  • Social
  • Economical
  • Technology, Tools & Resources

So where is accessibility? Ask 10% of our planet.

The United Nations Factsheet on Persons with Disabilities states that around "10 per cent of the world's population, or 650 million people, live with a disability. They are the world's largest minority." Can we ignore the world's largest minority while designing for a more sustainable world?

How do we get from "sustainability" to "accessibility"?

Some of the thoughts that popped into my head when thinking about this:

  • Light bulbs. The humble incandescent light bulb is being accused of harming our environment. Many countries have started to phase it out. However, many people feel that it is the only artificial light source that provides a good source of light in which to work or read. Who wins? The environment or the people who have vision issues? Will a quality replacement that does not burden the environment be made commercially available in time?
  • Wheelchairs. This is just one of many devices that some people need, but cannot get – if it wasn't for the existence of organizations like Wheelchair Foundation. Many assistive devices exist to let people get on with their lives. After all, even people with disabilities want to dance or play basketball.
  • The World Wide Web. OK. This is a biggie for such a short article. There are so many people connecting to other people around the world thanks the World Wide Web. (Thanks, Sir Tim!) I can connect with people around the world and exchange all sorts of ideas, and no, I'm not talking about what we ate for breakfast. I am talking about sharing resources, collaborating on projects, inspiring to greatness, and leaving a trail of knowledge for others to play with and reshape, etc., etc. I categorize that as sustaining life!
  • People. "Make better use of our resources" is one phrase I saw on the World Usability Day site. People are resources. We can all contribute to the design of a more sustainable world, including that 10% where the need for such a world may be strongest.
  • Heating and cooling. Have you ever tried to work in an office that was too hot or too cold? You could not think straight or your fingers froze to the keyboard. Many of us live and work in climates that require some sort of climate control so we can function. Some of us could even fall ill or die if there was no climate control. Sustainable energy resources are necessary for decent home and office environments. (The topic of those who don't have an office or home, well …)
  • Energy-saving hardware and appliances. Did you ever hear of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine? It requires electricity. You may know people who don't have a visible disability, yet people you know could be sleeping with this device at night to save their lives. They need electricity. There are many, many smart gadgets and devices that exist to save lives or improve life quality, and which require electricity or batteries. It would be wonderful if we could make low-tech versions of some devices and spread the energy burden in that manner.

I'll stop here. This is meant to set your thoughts in motion.

Continue thinking along these lines or try to map my thoughts here to the pillars mentioned earlier. Go back to the UN factsheet. Try to map those items to the pillars, too.

I like the two pillar descriptions in the following quote from the World Usability Day site.

Human-centered design directly supports the first two pillars of sustainability:

Economic – matching a design to user's needs and abilities enhance its utilization, quality, and efficiency, thus providing cost effective solutions and reducing the likelihood that systems products and services will be rejected by their users

Social – taking a human-centered approach results in systems, products and services which are better for the health and wellbeing of their users, including users with disabilities

Those are great mindsets for continuing this train of thought on sustainability and accessibility.

Where's the techcomm angle?

Ah, but again, technical communication is where people are. Communicating the concepts of sustainability – through product descriptions, how-to documents, regulations, and so on – requires the skills of people working in some way with technical communication. I think readers know by now that the toolkit of a technical communicator contains "accessibility". Our readers are also aware that a technical communicator can depend on accessibility in authoring tools, or the workplace, or the home.

Sustainability and accessibility are topics for every day, not just World Usability Day. I don't go into great detail here because I have merely started a conversation. I don't have all the answers! Let's all continue this thread in the comments, on Twitter, on your blog. Today, and every day.