Background

Day 2 of the Museums and the Web 2007 Conference (Friday 13 April, I need to remind myself) began with Birds-of-a-feather sessions which started at 08.00. I didn’t attend any of these session, partly as I’m not staying at the conference hotel, but more importantly Stephen Brown and I needed to sort out the final details for our Professional Forum on “Accessibility 2.0: A holistic and user-centred approach to Web accessibility“. And as this was the most challenging day for me (facilitating workshops can be much more mentally draining that giving talks, I find) I even missed out on a meal with fellow delegates last night, returning to my hotel at 9 pm last night and in bed soon afterwards.

Professional Forum: Accessibility 2.0

I’m pleased to say that the Professional Forum seemed to go down very well. About 50 people attended the session and they participated fully in the breakout groups, in which we asked them to discuss how the approaches they are taking to Web accessibility, the difficulties they are experiencing and any successes they have. Stephen facilitated the report back, while I kept notes in a wiki. Stephen did well in pulling about the various approaches which are being taken, from use of automated testing tools, provision of accessible HTML and CSS fragments for reuse across a web site through to user testing, including involvement by people with disabilities. During the feedback the issues of the rich content museums hold, the interactive services they are seeking to provide, the use of user-generated content and the limited resources smaller museums may have were raised. This provided an opportunity to describe the approaches to e-learning accessibility I have been involved in, with a focus on the accessibility of the learning outcomes, and not necessarily the e-learning resources – an approach which we have described as ‘blended accessibility’. We then described how we are seeking to build on this user-centred approach within a broader cultural heritage context, and also within an international context. An example I gave of the difficulties of addressing accessibility within a cultural context was of a Salvador Dali painting. This example was particularly appreciated by several people in the audience, who are faced with similar challenges, within a legal framework which is felt to mandate order medications compliance with WCAG guidelines. However shortly before the workshop started I spoke to several attendees, and found that most were from the US, Canada, UK and the Netherlands, with one person from China. Stephen quickly found the legal requirements across a number of these countries, and found that in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK the legislations requires organisations to take reasonable measures. This is great, as the approach we have been developing is based on use of WCAG guidelines when they work, but a willingness to take alternative approaches when the guidelines either don’t work or compliance would require unreasonable measures to be taken.

We concluded by described the Accessibility Summit II and the manifesto we are developing. Several people expressed their willingness to become engaged in developing this manifesto further – and I’d extend an invitation to readers of this blog. Either add a comment to the blog, or send me an email.

Also note that my friends on the New Media Initiative blog have given their thoughts on the session and Majawat concluded that MW2007: Accessibility ain’t so hard.

Radical Trust: State of the Museum Blogosphere

After the Professional Forum I attended the session on “Radical Trust: State of the Museum Blogosphere”. This was a very popular session, illustrating the clear interests in the provision of blogs within a museums context. Again I’ll point to the New Media Initiatives blog entry for their thoughts on the session (there’s a team contributing to their blog, and they won’t be jet-lacked, I should add!)

The discussions on approaches to deploying blogs and ways of measuring, maximising and sustaining the impact of blogs reflect a number of the postings on this blog. And it was very interesting when one person commented that the museum community was way behind the library sector in making use of blogs – with one person responding by pointing out that the library sector is much larger than the museum sector.

So I would hope that the issues discussed on this blog will be of interest to the museum community – and I’ll try and contribute to blogs such as the Walker Arts Center’s Off Center museum blog (which has the wonderful byline “outside ideas from inside the walker”).

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