Fix the Web just launched its new website that is designed to allow the disabled and elderly to report problems or difficulties they encounter when browsing the web. Hopefully, this innovative idea by Citizens Online, will then report each complaint to the website administrators The target for this project includes the many sites that are incompatible with modern screen readers, some with text that is difficult to read for people with corrected vision, websites that have security features which prohibit non-mouse users from navigating their site, and websites with extremely elaborate or distracting formats.
The Fix the Web campaign is a part of the e-Accessibility Forum, which is a group that focuses on web accessibility issues such as those discussed in the World Wide Web Consortium guidelines. The United Kingdom Minister of Communications Ed Vaizely created this initiative in October of this year, and Fix the Web is just one faction of the e-accessibility campaign that will run until 2012. The Nominet Trust has committed financial support, but much of the work will rest on the shoulders of volunteers. The Fix the Web campaign hopes to recruit over 10,000 volunteers, who will then send emails, enter the campaign website, or use Twitter to report the problems and create a massive database of issues for the elderly or people with disabilities.
Why is internet accessibility suddenly a high-priority public issue? As Dr. Gail Bradbook of Citizens Online claims in the BBC report, "We expect to see ramps, extra wide doorways and adapted toilet facilities, but what about the equivalent online...I believe many techies would be horrified to think that the web they love so much is excluding people. I firmly believe that this isn't a problem disabled people should have to deal with on their own." Many people walk up stairs and use escalators without even realizing that these obstacles are not always easy for disabled people or elderly people to use. While there has recently been an upsurge of awareness of handicap access to public spaces, it's easy for many people to ignore the same concept when applied to the Internet.
The statistics speak for themselves. According to a BBC report, there are six million disabled and elderly internet users in the United Kingdom, and many have trouble navigating small print or other website features. Yet a mere 19% of websites currently meet the minimum standards for web access, according to the World Wide Web Consortium (WWWC). With just a few simple layout changes, website administrators and designers could make their pages more accessible to more Internet users. In 2008, the WWWC wrote guidelines to help improve web access for those with disabilities, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. They focused on features that could make browsing the web easier for people with visual, auditory, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and physical disabilities. Elderly Internet users were also taken into consideration for the project. The organization has also published literature regarding Internet accessibilities issues such as the Essential Components of Web Accessibility, User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) Overview, and the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) Overview.
Fix the Web is based on four principles of Web accessibility, according to the World Wide Web Consortium: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. The volunteer will work with website administrators and designers to ensure that their information and services are available to the widest audience possible. This not only helps disabled and elderly people to access online products, information, or services, it also enables the website operators to fix certain features that is limiting their business growth by cutting off certain groups of Internet users - and potential clients.
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