Jodi Mattes

Jodie Mattes

Jodi Mattes spent all of her adult life campaigning for better accessibility for people with disabilities. Even as a little girl she was always very passionate, questioning things, seeking answers and not being satisfied with the status quo. Thus, her later heartfelt campaigning for accessibility was no surprise to those who knew her. Her sister Sara proudly relates a typical example of this. Whilst Jodi was working at the British Museum the famous dome was undergoing reform at the time. Jodi donned a hard hat and crawled through a tunnel on the site to gain access to and inspect the new reading rooms. Her goal was to ensure the desks that had been fitted were usable for wheelchair users – even though disability access was not being part of her remit at the time. They weren’t – but she successfully persuaded the appropriate authorities to modify them accordingly.

This is only one example of her huge influence at the British Museum where she campaigned tirelessly for improved facilities – and not just regarding the physical resources. It was at the British Museum where Jodi became a pioneer in campaigning for better digital resources. This was during her work on the innovative ‘COMPASS’ project which aimed to put a huge number of BM collections online. At the time, very few people had considered web accessibility. Jodi worked to ensure that the COMPASS website was accessible to all. She developed a text-only version of COMPASS, organised testing of the system by blind and partially sighted users and worked with the system developers on changes informed by the testing process. She also worked on accessible text descriptions which fed into the development of content on children’s COMPASS, and made sure a reading machine for visually impaired users was installed.

Jodi also worked at the Royal National Institute of Blind People, where she promoted audio description in the theatre for visually impaired people. Although weakened by cancer during her last months, she rallied enormous energy to complete an important research report into how theatres manage audio description services. The report looked at how theatres provide front-of-house staff training, how they integrate describers into their work, what technology they use, what training they receive, how visually impaired people are involved and how the service is marketed.

Her former colleagues remember her for her enormous energy and winning enthusiasm. Jodi could also be unflinching in her insistence that access for disabled people has to be part of the design brief of any service. Throughout her short career, Jodi believed that organisations need to change and involve disabled people to provide equal service to disabled people. In her work, Jodi exemplified the power of personal engagement to transform reality. She would have been extremely proud of The Jodi Mattes Trust, set up in her honour.