Wikimedia Fellowships/Project Ideas/The Accessibility Project

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List of Project Ideas Wikimedia Fellowship Project Idea: The Accessibility Project – For Everyone In Need of Extra Support When Reading


This is a project about increasing the accessibility on the Wikimedia projects for people that suffer from different types of problems that reduces their abilities to take advantage of written texts. This project consists of two parts:

  1. During Part 1 a report about the existing problems and what could and should be done by the Community and Wikimedia to help solve these problems will be written.
  2. During Part 2 outreach activities based on the findings in the report will take place to attract new as well as experienced volunteers to help solve the problems.

The idea is to use a holistic approach when doing the research and focus on the many different groups that have problems to take advantage of written texts and not just one single group; how big those groups are; and what has been done, or could be done to solve the problems. By doing so it is possible to later focus on implementing the suggestions that affects the most people possible. The main focus groups of the project that so far have been identified are people that are illiterate; dyslectic; people with visual impairment or blindness; with atypical colour perception; immigrants that do not yet master the written language; young people or children that have not yet mastered the written language for different reasons; and people that are mildly intellectually challenged.

The Accessibility Project will contribute to four of Wikimedia’s strategic priorities:

  • First of all it will contribute to an improved quality due to the development of institutional partnerships and alliances with organizations and institutions working with the issue of accessibility;
  • Secondly, it will increase Wikipedia’s reach since people that have problems with accessing written texts will have an increased use of the sites. These people are geographically spread out everywhere so this project will benefit all language versions and has a global scope. However, the amount of people with illiteracy is considerably higher in the Global South than the Global North. Worth pointing out is that women are overrepresented when it comes to illiteracy, which makes this a gender issue;
  • Thirdly, it would also encourage innovation by presenting what tools that needs to be created and what they should ideally include so that the developers get a clearer idea about how to increase accessibility;
  • Finally through Part 2 of the project (see below) it would also increase participation by inviting and helping the experts and stakeholders to participate in editing Wikipedia.

The goal is that the lessons learned during Part 1 should be transferable to as many language versions as possible on volunteer basis afterwards. A large part of the practical work will however directly gain the Swedish and English language version, especially during Part 2 of the project.

Part 1: Laying the Foundation[edit]

One of Wikimedia’s goals is to reach an increasingly larger part of the world’s population and to make the Wikimedia projects accessible for more and more people globally. So far much of the work has been focusing on for example making Wikipedia easier to access and edit from mobile phones and on outreach activities in the Global South. However, one important feature has so far been more or less overlooked – that being the large amount of people in every language in every country who have access to Internet but for different reasons have a hard time profiting from written text and need some form of extra support.

These people do not belong to one coherent group but consist of many subgroups that all share the same problem with reading written texts. They experience this problem for different reasons and thus the solutions will have to differ. The main focus groups include illiterate people; people with dyslexia; people with visual impairment or blindness; immigrants that do not yet master the written language; and young people or children that have not yet mastered the written language for different reasons; and people that are mildly intellectually challenged. The severity of the problem of course varies as well as the support given from states, NGOs and other actors so what is needed also differs on the individual level. What is clear is that reading difficulties is a very real problem for a very large part of the population, also in the Global North. For example in the EU around a quarter (25 percent) of the 15-year olds have problems reading and in the U.S. alone, according to Dyslexia.org, there are over 3,500,000 children in Special Education for dyslexia. In Sweden is expected that 5-8 percent of the population has dyslexia. Also globally more than 776 millions adults still can not read or write and in many areas in the Global South more than 50 percent of the women cannot read – which also make this a gender issue.

However, this project will of course have a limited impact for many people since some of the solutions might not be applicable to all languages and large parts of the Global South still lack or has limited Internet access (which is, however, changing rapidly), but the examples, I hope, serve to give an understanding of the width and breadth of the problem and the importance of making Wikipedia more easy to use for all of these people.

Scope of Proposed Project[edit]

The goal with Part 1 of the Accessibility Project is to perform an in-depth study covering the following six areas:

  • What the problem consists of, what the different subgroups are and how their problems differ;
  • What representatives, stakeholders, experts, and Wikipedia users and editors think should be done;
  • Identify how many people that are expected to be affected by the different improvements so that it is possible to prioritize between them. The suggested changes will be linked to the different subgroups' needs, but also horizontally (i.e. changes that could affect more than one group) so that the most needed improvements and tools can be prioritized first. To identify what is most needed both the absolute numbers of affected people by each problem would be identified, but also the severity of their needs would have to be taken into consideration;
  • Identify what tools that already exist to increase accessibility for these groups and how they could be implemented;
  • Identify what tools that need to be created from scratch, what developments are needed on Wikipedia’s software to implement the new and old tools to solve the problem, and how this could be done in cooperation with both new and old editors, experts and interested parties and with the Wikimedia Foundation staff; and finally
  • Compile information and an analysis of projects that already exist on Wikipedia and how they could be improved, expanded or transferred between the different language versions together with suggestions based on the findings and preparatory work of new blueprints, standards, documentation of best practices, guidelines, policies and help pages.

The end product of Part 1 of the project will be a comprehensive report as well as changes directly on Wikipedia after a discussion with the Wikipedia communities (the changes on Wikipedia will mainly take place on the Swedish and English language versions as cases, based on the authors experience and language skills). The goal is to lift the problem in the active community on the English and Swedish language versions and increasing the efforts done in this field.

Part 1 of the project is intended to run for 8 months, during which the information will be structured and collected and continuously published online together with updates on the Wiki-pages so that the Community can be actively involved.

Project Phases[edit]

Phase 1 – Presenting the Idea to the Community[edit]

In the initial phase the complete project idea will be presented on Wikimedia. The idea will then initially be mentioned on the Village pump on the English language version and the equivalent page, Bybrunnen, on the Swedish language version as well as on the Wikimedia mailing lists foundation-l and wiki-research-l. The Wikipedia Community as well as the Wikimedia staff will be invited to give suggestions and helping to develop the idea further. If the project idea is accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation the project will be presented on all Village pumps on language versions that have associated Wikimedia chapters to raise awareness. This will lay the foundation for Phase 3 and 4 (below).

Phase 2 – Literature Review[edit]

Before starting with the interviews and the outreach activities to the different organisation an initial literature review will be done to get a better insight regarding who the stakeholders are; what organisations to contact; and what has been done on other websites to solve this problem and increase accessibility. The literature review will continue during the entire writing process to corroborate what has been said during the interviews.

Phase 3 – Outreach and Cooperation[edit]

The third phase is one of the most important ones. During this phase the actual contacts with stakeholders, the Wikimedia staff and the Wikipedia Community will be intensified and the interviews with many central actors will take place to get a better understanding about what is wanted and should be done. This includes interviews both with interest organizations to take advantage of their expertise as well as with Wikipedia editors to get inputs and experience. For example the experience from the English and German language versions of Wikipedia with reading articles out loud and recording it will be taken into account and lessons learnt will be presented as well as the experience from the Simple English language version. This will be done by conducting interviews, reading discussion pages and supporting documents on Wikipedia. This work of collecting and summarizing lessons learnt will benefit the communities since best practices can be taken into considerations and mistakes can be avoided.

Cooperation will be initiated with Wikimedia developers and programmers on Wikipedia about developing new tools and changes in the software – e.g. to make it possible to change fonts and individualize the contrasts (changes that research show would help both dyslectics and people with visual impairment) or to make it possible to automatically divide words so that they become easier to read (e.g. Wi-ki-pe-dia).

A number of studies show that implementation processes become problematic if the affected parties are not involved in the decision making process, and this is of course even more true when it comes to an volunteer based project like Wikipedia. Therefore, even before the final version of the report is finished the findings will be presented online to make it possible for the Community to suggest more questions to be asked; possible rewriting of different parts; ideas for what could be done on top of the suggestions; and most importantly to start working on solutions. The hope is that many insights will be gained from this and that a more thorough report will be produced in the end that the Community stands behind.

Phase 4 – Implementation[edit]

Parts of the implementation might take a long time since the software might have to be developed, while some changes might be easily fixed. The needed changes will be reported as a bug on Bugzilla to let the developers work on it in due time.

However, maintenance of the core Wiki-pages on Outreach, Swedish, and English Wikipedia can take place while still completing the report. This includes expanding guidelines; help pages etc. on the English and Swedish language versions of Wikipedia with the collected knowledge. This increased documentation will help make it possible to increase volunteer efforts and make it possible for new editors and organisations to serve themselves. This would also include the creation of a WikiProject on Swedish Wikipedia, which currently lacks one. The WikiProject would help to coordinate the work done online for example by grading the recordings that are uploaded. The project will help to organize the volunteers that are interested in assisting new editors and organisations virtually and create a natural place to post questions. The obstacles and lessons learnt during this work will be presented in the final report.

Phase 5 – Monitoring the Continued Progress[edit]

To measure how the work of the community progresses both during the project and after the report has been published and after the outreach activities have ended different statistical and qualitative measures should ideally be developed in cooperation with the Community and the Wikimedia staff to clearly present what has been done and what still needs to be done. This includes for example the creation of statistical tools to get information about the progress with pictures with alternative texts (a description what is shown on the picture) or how many of the Featured articles that have been read out loud and recorded.

Phase 6 – Evaluation[edit]

The project will be completed when the final report has been handed in. However, the development of tools and changes in the software will most likely continue over years to come because of the limited number of programmers.

One goal is that a functioning project will be up-and-running on the Swedish language version and that supporting documents will have been put in place there and that Wiki-pages on the English language version will have been updated and expanded based on the findings.

Post-Phase – Applying For Grants and Wikimania[edit]

The hope is that the Wikimedia Foundation will be able to use the report to apply for grants to speed up the work-process and implementation of the suggestions.

To serve as a remainder about the project and attract new editors the parts of the material that are finished will be presented at the Wikimania conference in Washington, D.C. on July 12–15, 2012 or at the Wikimania conference following after the project has ended in 2013, provided a scholarship is available.

Part 2: Recruitment of Experts to Further the Work[edit]

One of the goals with the initial project is to initiate cooperation and take advantage of the knowledge and expertise that many interest organisations possess (see Phase 2 – Outreach and Cooperation above in Part 1). This will naturally lead to contacts established with relevant parties and the work done during Part 1 will lay the foundation for the second stage of the project (Part 2). The new contacts will be invited to help in organizing different types of events to increase awareness of the changes taking place on Wikipedia and what they could contribute with. As mentioned before this part of the project is therefore mainly contributing to Wikimedia’s goal of increased participation among new groups of experts and in general to attract more editors.

On many language versions (not least the Swedish one on which I am primarily active) the number of volunteers working to improve the situation for persons who have a hard time profiting from written text and need some form of extra support have been very limited, not to say non-existing. Of course this is dependent on a lack of knowledge of the possibilities offered (such as alternative texts), but also because of the limited size of the Community – the limited number of volunteers focus on other equally important issues. A crucial first step is therefore to make current editors aware of this is, but also more volunteers focusing on this are needed. Therefore, in the second part of this project, a serious effort is put on attracting these new editors. The Swedish language version has had a decline in the number of active users and it is therefor important to work with outreach activities to change this trend. Just to give an example one could show parents of blind children how to add alternative text to pictures so that the parents then can add this in articles that they know is of interest for their own child.

Scope of Proposed Project[edit]

The aim of Part 2 is to increase the participation of experts in this field as well as ordinary volunteers with a special interest in this work. To attract these new volunteers preparatory work has to be done both to create specific material, prepare the Wikipedia Community and create and update the relevant Wiki-pages followed by a number of outreach activities at different locations. The lessons learnt will be added as an appendix to the main report written during Part 1 of the project. The presentation and seminar material will be put online under the CC-by-sa 3.0 license and volunteers will be invited to translate the material in more languages.

During seminars and presentations not only will a general presentation be given about what Wikipedia is doing and is all about but it will also be complemented with specific information of what possibilities exist during the editing process to make Wikipedia more user friendly for people that have a hard time reading texts. The seminars will be done to let interested people have a chance to familiarize themselves with the editing process and to pass the threshold of registering accounts.

Due to the author’s geographical location the majority of outreach activities will take place in Sweden and most of the editing will therefore benefit the Swedish language version of Wikipedia but possibly also other language versions could benefit from these outreach activities, depending on languages mastered by the people participating in the seminars. They will be much encouraged to contribute in other language versions as well if possible.

If invited by different Wikimedia Chapters seminars and presentations can take place on just about all continents in person and possibly also through web-based presentations and seminars. The material will also be put online so that other volunteers can hold seminars and presentations with a limited amount of work.

Part 2 of the project is intended to run for 4 months to give enough time to create the material and to organize the events.

Project Phases[edit]

Phase 1 – Preparations and Invitations[edit]

A large part of the preparatory work will already have been done during Part 1 of the project since many of the stakeholders will have been identified and contacted. A request would be sent out asking the organizations to send out invitations to their members to seminars and presentations. Invitations will if possible also be published in local newspapers to reach as many people as possible. One potential problem is to find premises to use during the seminars but hopefully the local organizations will be able to help out with that.

Power-point-presentation and other types of instruction materials would have to be created. The cost of printing parts of the material will hopefully be covered by the Swedish Wikimedia chapter.

A number of Wiki-pages on the Swedish and English language versions will have to be created to make the new editors entrance as smooth as possible. Most of this material will have been added during Part 1 of the project but some material might still be added and the existing material should be kept updated.

Phase 2 – Seminars and Presentations[edit]

The goal is to organize at least 8-10 seminars with different interested groups. This includes e.g. the parents of children with dyslexia or blindness; interest organizations such as support groups and patient groups; and remedial teachers or special remedial teachers as well as students becoming remedial teachers. Other groups might be identified and included during the project span.

Also experienced editors are likely to be interested in the findings and conclusions and presentations at events organized by the different Chapters might also take place.

Phase 3 – Evaluation[edit]

By the end of this project the goal is to have at least 50 new accounts created and a well functioning and active WikiProject on the Swedish language version of Wikipedia. If this is achieved the project will be considered a success.

I will also create a participant survey so that the participant can evaluate the presentations and seminars so that I can continuously improve my work and create a lessons-learnt document.

Phase 4 – Sharing the Findings[edit]

The material created for the seminars and the presentations will all be translated from Swedish to both English (and possibly also to Finnish) and then uploaded to the Bookshelf project, created by Frank Schulenburg in October 2009 and improved during Lennart Guldbrandsson’s fellowship in 2010. A diary or some other form of presentation of the lessons learnt and the experiences from the seminars and presentations will be summarized in an additional report.

Submitted by[edit]

Jopparn 13:06, 5 January 2012 (UTC) I am very much interested in becoming a fellow.

I have been active on Wikipedia since 2006. For the last five years I have been an administrator on the Swedish language version. I frequently translate articles from enwp, dawp and nowp to Swedish and also write articles from scratch. I have over 20,000 edits on the Swedish language version and I have so far created over 200 articles, of which seven articles are considered "Rekommenderad" (the equivalent to GA articles), two articles have been considered "Bra" (the equivalent to A) and six articles considered being "Utmärkt" (the equivalent to FA). I have also worked on one Featured Portal. On Commons I have so far uploaded over 200 of my own pictures (of which four have received QI status).

While studying at Umeå University for my Bachelor's degree in Peace and Conflict studies I often worked extra both with intellectually challenged people and elderly people. It was when doing this that I realized the problems that many people have with profiting from written texts and their need of some form of extra support. I have had an interest of the subject ever since.

During my bachelor's studies I was an exchange student at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke for one semester. Currently I am studying at the Master programme in European Studies at Gothenburg University, with only my Master’s thesis left to write before graduating. The Master programme is entirely in English. While studying in Gothenburg I have been working extra as a freelance journalist and I recently ended an internship at the European Parliament's Secretariat. My work experiences and my master level studies make me confident that I will be able to work independently, conduct interviews and produce a high quality report as well as giving presentations.

I have experience in organizing and leading projects at many different levels as I have always been active in different NGOs. I have created and been the chairman for both a cinematic association as well as a paintball club and a few years ago I also took part in the organization of a conference concerning how to activate and engage young people in local politics. More recently, during my internship at the European Parliament, I also took an active part in the organization of a few large events in which high officials and politicians from the European Institutions participated. These experiences make me confident that I have the capacity to organize and structure a project like this.

Endorsements[edit]

This section is for endorsements by Wikimedia community volunteers. Please note that this is not a debate, vote, or poll, but is rather a space for volunteers to describe in detail why they think a project idea is of value. If you have concerns or questions rather than an endorsement to make, please use the idea Talk page. Endorsements by volunteers willing to work in collaboration with a fellowship recipient on a project are highly encouraged.

If I understood your idea well an example is active and working well. To be honest there are some unfriendly colleagues who want to take it off or make unsollicited changes :;(. I'm talking about a tool for the blind called Gesproken Wikipedia i.e. Spoken Wikipedia. A small (not sure, but afraid there are not too many volunteering to get a microphine out and read the text clear enough in it in order to create an uploadable audio file for people with visual challenge. Cheers, ZeaForUs 21:21, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Hallo ZeaForUs! I am aware of the Gesproken Wikipedia-project and the English Wikipedia:WikiProject Spoken Wikipedia and as I pointed out in the project idea their experiences will of course be included and investigated in the report, to learn from their success and failures (it is mentioned under "Phase 3 – Outreach and Cooperation"). The same goes for the Simple English Wikipedia's work (I realized that I had not mentioned it before so I added that yesterday).
However, many other things that have not yet been tested can possibly be implemented such as (just to mentioned a few) making it possible to change fonts and colours (or at least finding out how it preferably should be and update our internal working documents accordingly), a function to split up words to make them easier to read, how to better included the spoken articles and/or the en:Pediaphon function in the Wikipedia interface and how the Pediaphon could be improved (Bischoff states in a report from 2007 that they have not received that many comments about it so far so valuable insights also for his project could be gained, and Swedish is one of its supported languages (since February 2010)). There are possibly many other tools out there that could be of great help and during the project time span I hope to identify them and propose how to include them on Wikipedia or how to improve the already existing ones. Just the fact that there will be a more or less complete list with features to consult for everybody interested will have a value in itself in my opinion.
I also completely agree with your thoughts about the lack of editors as a major problem when it comes to the Gesproken/Spoken projects and I hope that through Part 2 of this project proposal also those WikiProjects (but not only these!) would get more ideas on how to improve their work and also improve their ability to find more volunteers through outreach activities. Jopparn 11:28, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

I would like to endorse this proposal. It furthers the cause of spreading knowledge by reaching several disadvantaged groups who may otherwise have been outside the scope of the Wikimedia Foundation's activities. Additionally, the project promises to generate knowledgeand raise awareness in several related fields, where I personally believe knowledge and awareness is desperately needed—not only by the Wikimedia Foundation, but by all the volunteers around the world who are trying to come to grips with these issues. Niklas R 00:01, 10 January 2012 (UTC)