Unleashing the Potential of Fix the Web

Unleashing the Potential of Fix the Web
Gail Bradbrook, Citizens Online, Dec 2012

This paper may be easier to read in a document I have so please contact gail AT citizensonline DOT org DOT UK

Following an investment of £50,000 by the Nominet Trust in early 2010, Fix the Web (www.fixtheweb.net) was developed as a grass roots solution to web accessibility issues. The project was launched in November 2010, in beta version, to test its approach.
Fix the Web (FTW )continues to grow in usage and reach despite not receiving further funding since January 2010. FTW has demonstrated its potential to game change the accessibility agenda and has received widespread support as a result.
Citizens Online, a small UK based charity, has carried the project for two years but has been unable to fully harness the support on offer and thus realize the potential of FTW. This is because some requirements for help have not yet been made available. This paper outlines the areas that need resourcing within Fix the Web and calls on the accessibility community and funders to come together in support of this project, for our joint goal of Web and software accessibility. Different organisations may wish to offer resource (time, funding, software etc) into FTW against the needs tabled below. Citizens Online are open to another organisation taking over the central management of FTW. This paper is open for discussion and amendment.

About Fix the Web
Fix the Web (FTW) is an innovative, crowd sourcing approach to web accessibility. Disabled people are able to report accessibility issues in less than 60 seconds, using either twitter, email, an online form or a downloadable toolbar. Volunteers acting as complaint handlers ensure the issue is raised with the website or software owners and signposting to expertise is offered. FTW thus raises awareness of the accessibility issue with website owners, commissioners and developers, as well as the volunteers who may be relatively new to accessibility.

Since it has been launched Fix the Web has achieved the following:
• 2306 Websites reported
• 837 Volunteers signed up
• 236 Reporters signed up (+ further reporting anonymously)
• 128 Fixed websites
• 187 Website owners agreeing to do something at a later date
• 467 Website owners having their awareness raised
• Over 250 items of media coverage
• 2069Tweets about FTW

Current Strengths of FTW model
• Grass roots basis - enabling the voice of the user and the issues that matter to them
• Ease of reporting – one line is sufficient in first instance
• Crowd sourcing both awareness raising and fixing accessibility, each email from the site raises issues of both business and case (carrot) and legal case (stick) for compliance
• Low barrier to entry volunteering opportunity
• Potential to cross fertilise accessibility experts with those new to accessibility who need their awareness raising, training and mentoring
• Great story – coverage quite easy to achieve, sponsors highlighted in every action from the site, Stephen Fry backs it
• Support from the accessibility community
• Generation of data that is useful for companies, the accessibility community and legislators
• Once completed, site is low cost to run. Feeding back on site is easy.
• Spin off benefits of raising awareness of potential of disabled people to go online and signposting disabled people online to tech support

Current weaknesses and potential mitigations
• No senior champion for the project – volunteers or suggestions?
• Steering group dormant – leadership of project needs to gear up
• UK focussed / only in English – needs fully globalising
• Success of project needs evidencing – academic review needed
• Success of project not shared on website - needs case studies + review
• Volunteers are lonely – need to connect them to each other and experts directly
• Volunteers are not currently trained – embed training in the system
• Site is still in beta – site needs updating and design improving
• Feedback from volunteers and reporters has not been implemented – review suggestions made, ask for further feedback and implement changes
• More people using the site – PR strategy following implementation of above

An overall vision for FTW and associated targets
With partnership working plus a period of development and focused PR, FTW could achieve the following:
• FTW is a sustainable global project providing tangible benefits to accessibility stakeholders worldwide (disabled people, ICT professionals, online businesses, global and regional bodies, NGO’s and professional bodies)
• FTW is the global database for the reporting of problems of accessibility, generating quality and quantity of information. 100,000 reports are received annually.
• Reports generated are used by large, online organisations to manage their ongoing accessibility
• Reports also trigger an understanding by the wider online world (commissioners, owners and developers) of the need for accessibility, as a moral, legal and business issue
• For each accessibility report received: 98% get through to the appropriate owner, 60% trigger an increase in accessibility understanding, 30% are noted for solutions at a later date, 20% result in a fix
• Through changing the culture around web accessibility, key measures of web accessibility globally improve annually and FTW is seen as a central factor in improvement
• FTW enables the training of 1000 volunteers, so they have deeper knowledge and skills around accessibility.
• FTW actively connects those new to web accessibility with specific expertise to extend the network of accessibility enabled professionals by 100% year on year.

Table of Help needed
The table below outlines the areas that need resourcing to achieve the potential of Fix the Web. If we can get the resource for each area we can go for this big vision! We have been offered £200k worth of in-kind support.

Please contact gailATcitizensonline.org.uk for more information or with your offer of involvement which can be time, money or materials. Are you interested in leading FTW? Or being a key or part sponsor? Who would make a great global champion? Can we develop a collective funding pot to support the project sustainably?
Money may not be needed if all areas below can be covered in house (though it should be noted that offers of help will not be of use without a lead at a strategic and delivery level). Citizens Online have allocated £1000 as a starting point. We may be able to secure match funding if we can demonstrate sufficient coverage for the areas below and sufficient investment for central coordination. So obtaining a pot of £15k could make a huge difference.

Requirement Details Offers Notes (costing)

Leadership and coordination

• A senior champion
• A refreshed steering group
• Strategic leader / driver
• Day to day coordinator
• Find and support partners in other countries
• What other benefits could we achieve from FTW, e.g. asking reporters to support testing?

Estimated time or costs:
Min 2 days a week coordinator, min 1 day a week strategic lead at approx £150 / 300 day rates = circ £30k p/a

Review site and develop written changes
• Academic study of outputs and outcomes
• Process beta test and other suggestions for changes
• Review messaging on site for refresh
• Review toolbar
• Undertake survey of users / talk to key users
• Enhancements to site
• Messages from site – make technical case
• £3-5k for a study
• 15 days of time for a review / re wording = £4500
Example proposed changes are noted below*

Development of the site - tech stuff
• PHP coder
• Drupal interface changer
• Designer
• Implementing changes proposed so far and through a brief review
• Review of accessibility post changes
• Build app

Guestimated time requirements / costs (if not volunteer) 25 days of tech time at £250 + higher rate for design and fighting fund for later bugs = £10k
PR and marketing • Develop a PR strategy
• Implement strategy
• Ask Stephen Fry to host an industry dinner
• Work with partners who have “routes to market” eg RNIB
• Develop case studies
• Turn review into a story
• Improve site for community feel
• Implement downloadable “reward” badges**
• We have a lapsed googlegrants offer (we can reapply) for $120kpa of free advertising
* System changes proposed have three main goals:
1. Optimizing the number of “fixed” websites.
2. Improving user experience and the look of the site.
3. Optimizing the useful data collected.
• Forum for volunteers / tier of more expert volunteers
• Improve comms between volunteers / reporters, reporters want sight of progress
• Training for volunteers embedded
• Better dating of volunteer notes
• Volunteers get an email address and emails stay within the system
• Improve likelihood mails for volunteers aren’t seen as spam
• Improve examples on site- success case studies and types of reports coming in
• Develop an area for companies –accessibility statements and key accessibility contacts
• Issue and embed stronger guidelines for users

** Reward best volunteers- make use of downloadable reward Badges. List top ten volunteers and consider linking to award schemes so that the best FTW volunteers are publicly acknowledged.