Disability Arts Online
2009 Digital Access Online Commendation
Disability Arts Online (dao) is a lively new website packed with news, events and information which showcases deaf and disabled artists and their work. It is aimed at both the community of creators and the general arts audience. Content from dao staff and volunteer writers is mixed with blogs, including video blogs, from a network of deaf and disabled writers, artists and performers. A whole community of people shape the content of the site. This site presents a unique perspective on the arts afforded by disabled people. It is thoughtfully designed for accessibility and includes facilities to change the way the site looks to suit visual requirements, skip to content and remove images through the Accessibility link. It also provides comprehensive guidance on changing page layout, text size and other useful accessibility tools as well as how to access text to speech programmes for the visually impaired.
Dao offers online exposure to people who often don’t have the confidence or physical access to make or comment upon culture.
This project is funded by Arts Council England, through the Grants for the Arts scheme, to the tune of £168,000, awarded in 2007 for two years. The new site, which replaces www.disabilityarts.org, was a year in the planning and took six months to build, working with Brighton based technical contractors Surface Impression.
During the design period workshops were held with disabled people – staff and site users; to build consensus on the project. After the initial build the site was tested by a panel of disabled site users with a range of impairments, from physical, sensory to intellectual and emotional. Their feedback is constantly being incorporated into the new design.
As one disabled artist, Lara Varga, commented;
“Right from the start dao has embraced both disability arts and ….. disabled artists who want to create work that has nothing to do with impairment experiences.”
Dao is an ongoing project and a work in progress. A volunteer sub-editorial group of disabled members are involved in implementing further changes to the text layout of the site. Plans for the future include developing the site’s audience to give wider exposure to the work of deaf and disabled writers, artists and performers. This may include working with new disabled writers who want to learn how to write online about the arts, not just from within the disabled community, but portraying their perspective on the so-called ‘mainstream’ of culture.