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Accessibility Proxy seeks interested ISPs

From: Nick Kew <nick@webthing.com>
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 21:55:19 +0100 (BST)
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20020418214645.Y1502-100000@fenris.webthing.com>

This is a proposal with a lot of potential for improving web
accessibility, but it needs support (i.e. willingness to deploy
it for customers) from ISPs.  I am posting it here in the hope
that some readers may be able to suggest ISPs likely to be
interested in the proposal.

BACKGROUND
==========

According to RNIB figures, there are 1.7 million visually impaired
people in the UK.  Various other possibly-relevant disability
statistics have recently been posted to this list.

Disabled people will often be at a disadvantage in everyday
activities such as shopping or going to the library, so in
principle the Web has proportionally more to offer to them
than to the fully able-bodied.  Although the disabled are in
no sense a homogenous group, they should be seen as a natural
market to providers of Internet-based services.

Whereas a well-designed website is by definition accessible to
such people without undue effort or frustration, many thousands
of websites place wholly unnecessary obstacles in the way of
disabled users: for example, illegible small text and colour schemes,
text-as-images, and misuse of frames, scripting, flash, or other
forms of presentation.

Pages presenting problems are represented in every sector, from the
personal homepage through to household-name corporate and government
sites.  On the one hand, increasing awareness of the issue and the
law should help improve the situation over time; on the other hand,
there are a lot of seriously defective authoring and publishing
tools, and ignorance is notoriously hard to cure.

PROPOSAL
========

As a solution to improving accessibility on the web as a whole,
an ISP could offer an Accessibility Proxy to users, undertaking
content repair on-the-fly.  Existing systems such as the Site Valet
toolkit demonstrate the feasibility of repairing content, and
mod_xml now provides the necessary technology foundation for
us to undertake such repairs in real time, even on a heavily-loaded
server or proxy.  I also anticipate using it to enable a substantial
expansion to the range of problems we can automatically repair.

The advantage to users is not only much-improved web accessibility.
It can also help with the most fundamental problem of many disabled
users: the cost (real or perceived) of getting online in the first
place.  The minimum requirement for users of the proposed proxy has
virtually no cost: "throwaway" secondhand hardware and free software
will suffice for many users to get online.

To the ISP, this will enable you to offer a much-enhanced service
to a substantial group, as well as bring in new users.
For the first ISP(s) to offer such services, there could also
be some very positive publicity.

To take this project forward, I need to make contact with ISPs who
would be interested in offering such a service, either installed on
their own networks or operated as a webservice.  Any leads, or
forwarding of this message, will be much appreciated.


-- 
Nick Kew

Site Valet - the mark of Quality on the Web.
<URL:http://valet.webthing.com/>
Received on Thursday, 18 April 2002 16:55:23 GMT

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