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I was recently contacted by the
American Foundation for the Blind
with information and a request to try and blog about their newest effort to make the web accessible.
The Helen Project
is a simple system for rating web pages based on their accessibility.

In the words of the welcome site

The Helen™ Project is a 21st century extension of Helen Keller's impact on the rights
and opportunities of people with disabilities. As part of our responsibility to fulfill
her legacy, we wonder "What would Helen do?" if she were confronted with the opportunities
and obstacles that the Internet presents to people who, because of their disability,
do not have full access to the Internet due to accessibility limitations that exist...


Basically, the Helen Project consists of two things. One is a simple toolbar added to the browser of users who sign up for and agree to use the service and a web site which contains the accessibility ratings provided by these users.

Signing up was simple. I simply went to the Helen Project web site, read about the Helen Project, clicked the link to Register, filled in some basic information (username, email address, password and first and last names). I was then brought to a page from which I downloaded the Helen Project toolbar. The only issue I had was that currently Internet Explorer is the only browser supported and I generally use only FireFox. I did install the toolbar with Internet Explorer. The instructions are clear and simple to follow.

Once the toolbar was installed and I had restarted the browser (standard procedure when installing a toolbar or extension), I opened the main LiveJournal web page which appears to users who are not logged into
LiveJournal.com
I hit the control+Alt+H shortcut and was presented with a simple menu with a few choices. I selected the first option to rate the current page and was taken to a page on the AFB web site. The page title and address were already filled in on the simple form and I added a few comments, selected my rating and described my computer set up. I clicked the submit button and returned to the LiveJournal homepage. Writing this all out took longer than the actual process of installing and rating my first site. The process is very simple and enjoyable. The rating system gives users who care about accessibility a chance to give their opinions and explain the barriers we face on a site. I'm personally very excited about this opportunity to improve the understanding of accessibility needs.

Overall, I give the Helen Project four stars!

Comments

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jenandbronze
Aug. 25th, 2008 03:44 am (UTC)
Glad you mentioned it doesn't work with FF -- yet, since that is my main broser too, I haven't touched IE since using BB (Blackboard) when in school in May (was it that long ago?)... I don't think IE is going to be used by me much longer...
bioinstructor
Aug. 26th, 2008 09:14 am (UTC)
I'm too lazy to fight the computer right now--how does this help by letting the site developers know their shortcomings? Otherwise, I don't see a point in it.
Could be I'm just pessimestic.
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