Digital Accessibility – What are the new barriers and how do we overcome them?
Taking the thought that digital does not automatically equal accessible, we put together a session looking at the practicalities of digital access. How can we build online spaces and performances without disabling barriers? What would it look like if we made sure access was at the start of our creative process, not tagged on at the end?
Working online means that some of the barriers around travel and geography have been removed. However, during our planning for the session we realised that part of that ‘getting to the meeting’ experience was also about preparing for your meeting, getting in the right headspace, having a moment to yourself, marking out the time for the event in your mental space as well as your diary. This means meetings and events online can lack texture and distinctiveness, and can end up being less memorable. And yet, even though they are much less sensory than a trip on public transport, they can still be overwhelming, with multiple conversation streams to follow, lots of faces to observe, fast paced activities and poor audio quality all having an unpleasant effect.
Bringing a creative eye to this challenge allowed us to take a different approach. We made our digital gathering sensory in new ways; marking the act of ‘arriving’ with a theme tune and video, sending treats in the post to attendees and playing music by disabled artists during our rest time, to keep people ‘in the room’ with us.
There are lots of ways to think about how to make your digital performance or workshop accessible and so we would encourage you to experiment, to involve your creative team in the whole design of the event, not just the performance.
Think about barriers in as full a way as possible – including thinking about the barrier of digital poverty – lack of internet access affects many Disabled people of all ages. It might be that putting access at the start of your creative process means your performance ends up not even being online at all! However, if it is online, there are tons of practical resources out there to help you to make it open and inviting to all.
We spoke to Disability Arts Online for their insights into what makes a digital platform accessible and have lots of great tips and useful resources to share from them. We also interviewed artist Elinor Rowlands who shared her experiences in making online workshops welcoming and comfortable for neurodiverse artists and participants.
Useful resources we have found online
What we’ve learnt about online access during the Covid-19 crisis from Disability Arts Online
The experience of digital inaccessibility from Little Cog’s Guest Blog from Lisette Auton
A how-to guide for making your online performance accessible from Handprint Theatre
Accessible online events from Attitude is Everything
Dealing with concentration fatigue from Drake Music
Tips for subtitling events from Drake Music
Guide to Hosting An Accessible Online Meeting from Little Cog
Tips for Audio Describing Content from VocalEyes