Being a volunteer for Fix the Web is a valuable way to contribute your time and make a difference to the quality of disabled people's digital experiences.
Volunteering is simple, online, in your own time and may provide you with valuable skills and experience - to get involved follow the link to register to be a Fix the Web volunteer. You can do as much or as little with Fix the Web as you want.
This rest of this page explains more about what volunteering for Fix the Web involves.
Volunteer work with Fix the Web
Volunteers take on reports made by disabled people when they have had difficulty accessing information or features on a website. When you sign up as a volunteer, you can say how often you want the site to send you emails reminding you of the status of the reports you have taken on, and encouraging you to stay involved.
Understanding Web Accessibility Issues
We believe that anyone with the right determination and motivation can be an effective Fix the Web volunteer. You do not need prior expertise in web accessibility, though we hope you will begin to understand more as you help out. Get started with our video introduction to digital accessibility, the collection of links to other resources in Fix the Web's "Web Accessibility Training Area", or W3Cs Accessibility guide.
How the process works
Once you are registered to be a volunteer, you will be able to log in to this site and access a personal "dashboard" by clicking a link on the front page. Here you will be able to look for reports to take on.
Examples of the difficulties raised in reports include:
- web sites having non-accessible navigation (links);
- poorly presented information such as links that are not labeled correctly;
- use of Flash, video or images without providing alternative sources of information.
You will have three main jobs to do when contacting web designers or site owners:
Ensure the information from the disabled person reporting an accessibility issue is conveyed in a polite and comprehensible form. Some report are very brief, including reports made via twitter
Find the web owner via their website and send the information to them through email or contact form.
Please keep good records of any dialogue with website owners, pasting them into the notes section of the dashboard. Other people may view the report file later, so make sure that your notes are polite and make sense!
Volunteers should spend some time understanding the nature of the report, visiting the site in question to get a sense of what the disabled user has experienced. Remember that a link or feature that might seem obviously accessible to a non-disabled person might well be much harder, or impossible, for disabled people to access when using assistive technology such as screen reader software. Click for more information on understanding web accessibility issues. In some cases it may be appropriate to go back to the disabled person who reported the problem, and request further information from them.
Some of the reports that come in are not based on accessibility issues. Instead, they may be spam or complaints about other kinds of problems on the web (poor service, offensive or inappropriate content). If you are clear that a report is not an accessibility issue, Fix the Web has a process to "close" the report, with an appropriate label explaining why it has been closed. If you aren't sure, you can leave it for someone else to decide, and choose a different report to work on, via your dashboard.
Bear in mind that in many cases, sites are built using site builder tools or templates (look for domains containing wordpress.com, wix.com, weebly.com, moonfruit.com, sites.google.com and so on.) With these kinds of sites, the accessibility problem may not be with the person who has produced the site content (eg. Annie of "Annie's Homemade Jam site"), but rather with the site builder software or template that they have used.
If the volunteer is satisfied that there is a genuine accessibility problem, they should contact the relevant web design contact for the reported website. This should be stated somewhere on the site (often at the very bottom of the page). If you cannot find the web designer's details, then proceed by using another appropriate contact you can find on the site.
Keep the person who reported the issue informed of the progress of the case, unless they have asked not to be contacted.
Building rapport with web designers
The Web Accessibility Initiative has a helpful page on contacting organizations about inaccessible websites. The key thing here is to be clear, polite and patient with the web designers you contact. They may be very busy, no matter how willing to help. However, you may find that you get brushed off, and assured that a problem is fixed when it hasn't been! It's good to be tenacious as well as persistently polite, and to push a few times so that there is a better chance that the issue will actually get fixed. In the case where the website owner/designer replies to you with further questions about the query, you can offer advice if you feel able, signpost them to further more specialised sources of support, or pass the report on to our team of Expert Volunteers. As a Volunteer, you are not required or expected to be able to fix problems for website owners.
Getting support as a volunteer: going deeper
We strongly suggest you join the Accessify discussion forum (or look in their archives). The forum is the main place where you can get support and get responses to any questions you may have as a volunteer.
Communicating with website owners and disabled reporters
Raising web accessibility issues with website owners or designers, on the scale Fix the Web is aiming for, will make a difference. Simply contacting people about an issue on behalf of a disabled person is important. Sometimes website owners/designers may not respond to your message but the awareness raising you have done will have an impact over the longer term.
In some cases website owners may need to redesign their website substantially and of course this can rarely be done straight away. In this case, it may be worth closing the report with the appropriate label, or at least making a note to contact them again after a reasonable time period to see if there has been any progress. Make a note of this on the report file in your dashboard, and inform the person who made the report.
Occasionally it may turn out that there isn't a problem with the website, but that the disabled person is not using their assistive technology (such as a screen reader for a visually impaired person) properly. In this case, we have a collection of links about assistive technology that you can point people toward.
Please do not use the role of Fix the Web volunteer purely to promote your own business or service (an FAQ discusses this in more detail).
In some cases the issue with a website may be straightforward for the web owner to fix, and it would be great to hear about improvements made as a result of your volunteering efforts - let us know your success stories! We have a section of the website for successful case studies.
We hope you are now feeling inspired to be a volunteer for Fix the Web. Please register to be a volunteer - let's make sure the web that we love is inclusive!