Technology Committee/Project requests/Review of accessibility

From Wikimedia UK
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Accessibility needs not only to cope with the visually impaired or the deaf but to cover the full range of accessibility needs. This includes the blind / VI, deaf, dyslexic, physically impaired who use speech activated software etc.

Where we are now


There are various software options on the market, for example, Jaws and Zoom Text.

I am only experienced in using Jaws and Kurzwiel. Jaws in the UK is an expensive option (around £800 and £2k + for a Braille display) but much more heavily used in the USA. It is a sophisticated piece of software that will both act as a screen reader and translate the screen into Braille. To an experienced user it is excellent and makes almost anything accessible, although some website are more difficult than others, depending on how they are coded.

However many people do not have access to expensive software and use either software provided by the hardware supplier ie apple, or use the screen and website options coded on individual websites.


Even with the above software options there are still problems on web sites for example pictures without alt text to describe the picture, video’s with no subtitles etc.

Editors and people

There are a number of blind wiki editors mainly I understand using Jaws and a number of people who are interested in improving accessibility.

There are also a number of editors who are against improving the current situation and I have heard for example

  • Alt text – the descriptions are not accurate enough, and are irritating to include.
  • Why should we have to do things we don't need

The ideal world

A fully accessible website would be one that is

  • Is coded so that screen reading software does not speak all the code
  • Has alt text to help diagrams/ pictures
  • Has an option to sub title video clips
  • Can alter text size and colour of both background and text
  • Has an option to turn off flickering images


Although some wiki sites are accessible and easy to use others are extremely difficult for example the WMUK site. For example tables tend to be difficult because for example a screen reader will always read down the boxes even though they should be read across.

The solution

Before we can identify a solution we need to try to scope the genuine size of the problem, I have asked a few random questions with around 15 visually impaired people and the answers are as various as the people. A blind computer programmer felt that Wikipedia was ok, 7 people actively avoided it, and the remainder had no real opinion. Given these reactions I feel that just putting a page up for people to log problems is only going to attract committed users.

I was hoping that we would be able to work with the key charities to support both the finding and the solution. I would hope that they would give us access to enough people to test and form a focus group.

When I started this I envisaged a solution as two fold:

  1. the development of tools that editors can use and /or add when editing
  2. using the editathon and meet ups etc to encourage and support people to add things like alt text to pictures and use appropriate colours, this would include the development of a wiki page /leaflet with ‘instructions’

What next

I would like to start a focus group to begin to look at the feasibility of doing anything, but we will need some staff /office support.


Thank you Carol for preparing this. Richard Nevell (WMUK) (talk) 11:00, 9 April 2014 (BST)

Involving the community

Hi Carol. Thanks for posting this. I think this is jumping a necessary step, though. It would be much better to get in contact with Wikipedia:WikiProject Accessibility and the related committees (as was suggested on the talk page for Accessibility of the Wikimedia websites to get their views on what the issues are (both whether the ones you're worried about are solvable problems, and to ask for known other problems), and to seek their involvement in putting together the focus group that you suggest in liaison with other organisations. If you have the wider Wikimedia community (who have been working on this topic for years) involved in the process from the start, then you'll find gaining support to implement changes much easier in the long run. The same would go for involving those working on this sort of thing at the WMF (the group that recently redid the typeface on Wikipedia would be an obvious group to start with). Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 20:18, 9 April 2014 (BST)