The University of Southampton

Stephen Fry backs project to make Web more accessible

Published: 1 February 2011

Stephen Fry is backing a fantastic, new development that has made the reporting of inaccessible websites a simple, one click process. The Fix the Web project is harnessing volunteer energy to tackle reports of web accessibility problems. Disabled people can now report sites to volunteers using a toolbar, called the ATBar, developed by researchers from the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton.

Recently launched, Fix the Web is already making great progress addressing websites that are inaccessible for disabled and older users. There is an impressive groundswell of support for the campaign, with 388 reported sites and 296 volunteers, 20 sites are already fixed and many more are in progress. Where sites do not get fixed, the project at least aims to significantly raise awareness of the issues, focused on change in the long term.

The process for a disabled person to report an inaccessible site is very simple, taking less than a minute. Quick to set up from the ATBar has a 'Fix the Web' button that launches a report form. Volunteers then take the reports through a checking process and send them on to website owners, with information about web accessibility. Ingeniously designed, the ATBar also incorporates text-resize, Text to Speech, style and reference setting buttons.

Stephen Fry comments: “We all expect a few glitches when we go online, 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!”

The development team of Sebastian Skuse, Dr Mike Wald and E.A. Draffan from the Learning Societies Lab at Southampton, are official partners of Fix the Web led by Citizens Online and funded by the Nominet Trust. Fix the Web is proud to be working in partnership with AbilityNet, Bloor Research, Hanona and Nomensa.

The idea of the toolbar has also been supported by JISC-funded OSS Watch who provide advice on the use, development, and licensing of free 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 six months there have been over 3 million 'toolbar hits' on the ATBar.

There are a number of other easy options for website reporting to Fix the Web: through a form on the site:, via twitter (#fixtheweb #fail, url and the problem) or by emailing post@fixtheweb though the toolbar is likely to be the fastest option.

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