The University of Southampton

ECS research helps to 'Fix the Web'

Published: 
16 November 2010
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ECS research is playing an important role in an ingenious new campaign called Fix the Web, being launched this week to tackle the problem of inaccessible websites on a massive scale. Fix the Web is an initiative of Citizens Online, a 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. 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. It also introduces a volunteer-led process for those complaints to be reported back to website owners to get fixed.

The reporting process for a disabled person will take 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 post@fixtheweb.net. The new campaign incorporates the open source cross-browser toolbar developed to enhance accessibility of the World Wide Web by researchers in the Learning Societies Lab of ECS with funding from JISC TechDis/ The toolbar has been renamed ATBar and is available as a bookmarklet and download. The development team of Sebastian Skuse, Technical Project Assistant Learning Societies Lab of the School of Electronics and Computer Science, Dr Mike Wald and E.A. Draffan have collaborated with 'Fix the Web' led by Citizens Online and funded by Nominet Trust.

There is now a 'Fix the Web' button that launches a report form that can be used to make comments about inaccessible websites. "Volunteers take the reports through a short process to check them and will then send them on to website owners, with information about web accessibility," said EA Draffan. The idea of the toolbar has also been supported by JISC-funded OSS Watch who provide advice and guidance on the use, development, and licensing of free and open source software. The team aim to build a community around the project and take it forward through their recently awarded JISC REALISE project.

Over the last five months the ECS researchers have recorded over 1.8 million 'toolbar hits' on ATBar.

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