The internet is a fairly inhospitable place for people with disability, particularly when it comes to visual design and the arts, where accessibility and elegant design have been seen as mutually exclusive pursuits.
In creating Arts Access Victoria’s website we’ve developed a world-class design experience that exceeds real-world accessibility requirements.
The design of the Arts Access site exceeds the WCAG 2.0 guidelines – not just by meeting machine-defined standards, but considering them from a human perspective. We paid careful attention to colour contrasts in order to ensure type and icons were suitable for users with low vision. We selected typefaces that used discrete letter shapes, as these typefaces are easier to read for people with dyslexia.
It was also essential that the new website express the creative nature of Arts Access as an organisation. The digital brand features a pastel colour palette that simultaneously creates a sense of calm and playfulness. These colours work harmoniously with the artworks, highlighting them without stealing focus.
Constant consultation with real users was essential to creating a site which exceeded accessibility and usability standards.
Normally, accessibility testing is simulated with software. This mode of testing fails to connect the final design with real user need, so we tested with users with different disabilities including people with visual impairment, physical and intellectual disability. It was important that they not only be able to use the site easily, but that they actually enjoy using it.
As a result of this testing, modifications were made to ensure the site can be navigated easily with a screen-reader and other accessibility tools, such screen magnification systems.
The Arts Access site sets a new standard for accessibility online, combining the highest standards of accessibility with a careful aesthetic consideration. By combining great design with cleverly used technology the site is an unprecedented improvement to the online experience of people with disability.
In the arts and cultural sector aesthetics are often prioritised over functionality, and accessibility can be left behind completely. Conversely, when sites are optimised for accessibility, aesthetics and functionality are often neglected.
By drawing the best elements from both sectors, the Arts Access Victoria website is unique in each, redefining what online accessibility can be.
The structure of content is an important consideration when aiming to optimise accessibility. We created an intuitive navigation system, structuring content using an easy-to-understand hierarchy. The layout of the site itself was also simplified to use only simple graphic elements, removing unnecessary decoration.
Our content strategy also maximised the accessibility of the site. We used plain language in all navigation items to ensure that the site was accessible to users with low literacy.
The new site design plays an active role in helping Arts Access meet their objective of connecting people with disability and the arts sector. The site now functions as a core service for its members and audience, presents a massive shift in how they communicate with the world, and delivers a huge return on investment.
By improving the user experience and optimising the site for accessibility, users are easily connected with accessibility-specific events listings. The site also acts as a platform for artists to communicate with the public, share their story and sell their work.