Over in the
mad scientist labs of IBM, researchers thought along the same lines as we do here: a lot of inaccessible content is not very likely to get fixed by site maintainers, but we could use the “wisdom of the masses” and “crowdsourcing” to make people who partake in the web actually heal it.
The Social Accessibility Project is an add-on to screen readers that would allow users to report missing meta data in a site and interested surfers to add this information with a browser plug-in. The information will be collated on a server and other users (and the initial reporter) can assess and comment on the quality of the fix.
The idea is pretty cool (although other projects like Webvisum go further and also allow solving of real barriers like CAPTCHAS - we will report more on them once they answered our request for an interview) but somehow there are some problems with it:
- the original publishers never get the wiser about these issues (maybe introducing a threshold to contact them - “here are 20 things people fixed to make your site available to them, can you look into that?”)
- there is a privacy and communication issue there. Other people that have been around as long as I was may remember the outcry about Third Voice, a company that allowed people to add sticky notes to web sites without them knowing about it (which of course ended up in more rude stickies than real help) and Microsoft learnt rather fast that there is not much smart about their Smart Tags in XP
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of crowdsourcing fixes (after all this is what we are doing with scripting enabled), but there is a real danger of spooking out a lot of people that are just not ready yet to face the fact (and the necessity) of freeing your data and throwing it out there for improvement and disussion.