Although I enjoy learning about many things found in museums, I have spent little or no time surfing the web looking for accessible online collections. This morning, while drinking my coffee and sorting through the stories that came over Blind News, I found one titled, “Jodi Web Accessibility Awards 2006 Shortlist Announced” from a web site called, “24 Hour Museum” based in the UK. This impressive site claims to serve as the “official guide to UK museums, galleries, exhibitions and heritage.” This site where the article about the Jodi Awards appears meets almost all of the accessibility guidelines I could check in my quick survey but it does contain a couple of unlabeled graphical links to sponsors which makes a little noise but, otherwise, this resource appears near letter perfect. I don’t know about such a site in the US but would enjoy learning of one.
The Jodi Awards, according to the article, “recognize excellence in museum, library, and archive and heritage website accessibility.” A group of judges, half of whom have a disability, chose the finalists by using the web sites personally and by testing them with automated validation tools. The award is named in “memory of Jodi Mattes (1973-2001) who worked to ensure the British Museum’s COMPASS site was as accessible as possible. After COMPASS went live in 2000, she went on to work for the Royal National Institute for the Blind,” says the article.
The short list of finalists includes six museums, all based in the UK but, because the Internet has few borders, one can enjoy the sites from wherever they have an accessible computer, PDA or notetaker.
The first site listed in the article, the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery contains a lot of interesting content from a number of museums in its city. I enjoyed reading about the representation of black Victorians as represented in British art of that time. The site has many links to interesting sounding subjects and I look forward to returning to it in the future. The article about the awards says it was chosen because it “is an easy to navigate portal to information about the city’s seven museums and links to BMAGiC – an online collections database. The site includes straightforward advice on changing text size, sharp images and an alternative, text enriched version of the Flash kids’ website.” I commend any web developers who can make Flash content accessible.
I really enjoyed browsing through the pages of The Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds site which also contends for the Jodi Award. The web site describes itself by stating, “The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary scheme to record archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of objects are discovered, many of these by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work.” This site contains all kinds of interesting descriptions of objects of historical interest found by volunteers. It seems that some people look about for such things as a hobby and others just happen upon things ancient. Either way, this site describes artifacts very nicely and I’m happy to hear about an organization of volunteer archeologists keeping track of found things.
Next in the running comes, i-MAP “The Everyday Transformed” which has “Accessibility Options” at the very top of their page. I believe this online art museum is the only one intended specifically for visitors with vision impairments. It includes detailed descriptions of the works it has on display and offers downloadable tactile graphics for those who like to touch their art. I-Map is part of the internationally famous Tate Modern Art collection and was the winner of the first ever Jodi award,
Their Reading Futures provides “Training and support for libraries’ work with young readers.” I didn’t find this one especially interesting as I am neither a librarian nor a young reader. People with children or those who work in the library sciences might find this site useful and it, like the other nominees, is highly accessible.
The History of Wolverhampton web site contains almost exactly what one would guess from its name. “Wolverhampton is a vibrant, multi-cultural city with a documented history that stretches back to 985AD when King Aethelred granted the title of land known as Heantune to Lady Wulfruna,” says the site. It contains all sorts of archives and arcane materials about this town with a very proud history. The accessibility of the site is superb and I wish more places of interest around the world would have their municipal history so well organized and presented in such an accessible fashion.
Another nominated site that dedicates itself to reading is “Speaking Volumes, by Wakefield Library and Information Service.” The home page states, “Our site is all about the enjoyment of reading and if you look through the pages you will find lots of reading suggestions, local reading related events, reviews of talking books and a noticeboard to give you the chance to swap views and opinions with other readers. You can hear a reading group in action and if you are interested, find out about local groups”
As one might assume, I found some of these sites far more interesting than others. The concept of the Jodi Award for accessible museum and library web sites should grow to something with an International stature. Learning about these particular sites in the UK gave me some cool web sites to look at but, more so, provides an example for how museums and libraries no matter of location can make themselves entirely usable by people with disabilities. I recommend that everyone sends this BC article or the original to any museum web site they would
like to see improved as all six can serve as templates for accessibility excellence.