Usually when I sit down to write a blog post, I begin by reflecting on the projects and work I have been involved in recently, to share the discoveries and events along the way.
This week however, I was inspired by another blogger – Claire Newing – and her post on ‘Disability in the UK Government Web Archive’ on Wednesday. Claire talked about the various ways website design is geared towards providing additional assistance to those that need it. This made me think of the British Sign Language (BSL) video podcasts available on our media player that deserve highlighting.
‘Introduction to Family History – British Sign Language video’ podcast
According to Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID), there are an estimated 9 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing, and a number of our users both online and in person may need assistance due to this. We have hearing aid loops in our Reading Rooms and staff trained in BSL to assist people onsite. Our podcast series is designed to share our collections more widely offsite, and using BSL interpreters on some of them means this can be as inclusive as possible.
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Last week was Diversity Week at The National Archives – a week in which we celebrate the diversity of our collections. This made me think about how the UK Government Web Archive is capturing ways that the UK Central Government web estate is being used to communicate with one minority group - disabled people. In writing this post I am aware that the term ’disabled people’ encompasses a wide range of very different people with many different needs. I will only be able to focus on a few specific examples in this short post.
The web teams responsible for UK government websites work to ensure that sites are as accessible as possible. Guidance about designing accessible websites is provided in the Cabinet Office (formerly Central Office of Information) Web standards and guidelines on delivering inclusive websites. Additionally, most websites in scope for our web archive include a page describing provisions made to ensure the website is accessible. We will have captured these pages as part of our regular archiving schedule. For example, the page below in an archived version of the Directgov website from December 2008 describes the accessibility features of the site.
Directgov - Accessibility features - archived December 2008
Interestingly, the page includes two audio files. In my opinion, one of the great benefits of the internet is the ability to communicate information to users in different ways. Whereas in the past a blind or partially-sighted person would have had to source specialist material, such as a leaflet printed in Braille or an audio book, they can now use inexpensive and commonly available technology such as a screen reader or changing the text size in a browser to access most information on the internet. This is made easier by careful website design.
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