A major national museum and an innovative audio description charity are both winners of a prestigious Jodi Award, presented this year in a high profile ceremony at the Museums Association Conference, which took place in Liverpool on 11 November.
The Awards, granted by the Jodi Mattes Trust, reward excellence in the use of digital media to widen participation of disabled people in museums, galleries, libraries, archives and heritage sites.
This year the Trust made two awards for accessible digital culture in UK-based projects, the first to The Imperial War Museum, Duxford for its Historic Duxford Trail, presenting veterans’ reminiscences and evocative soundscapes through wind-up devices along the route; the second to Vocal Eyes for its London Beyond Site audio project, providing rich, vivid descriptions of 40 London landmarks, described by ‘significant Londoners’, such as Barbara Windsor.
“The standard of entries this year was extremely high,” said Chris Owen, National Museum Wales Web Manager and one of the judges for the 2013 Awards, "Imperial War Museum's user-engagement in the planning and testing process at RAF Duxford could well be regarded as a benchmark for the heritage sector".
Judges were equally impressed by London Beyond Sight’s novel employment of well-known London people to bring to life iconic and lesser known London attractions for a blind and partially sighted audience.
Robin Urquhart, Online Resources Archivist at the National Records of Scotland, and Chair of the judges for the 2013 awards, said "The quality of the recordings and profile of the celebrity contributors will open up London's landmarks to a new audience, but, most of all, the judges were impressed by Vocal Eyes’ willingness to implement what they learned from user engagement during the planning and testing process."
A further three shortlisted UK projects received commendations for innovation, in recognition of their attempts to use digital technology innovatively and to open up content to new audiences.
The Sandwell Arts Trust’s multi-sensory Sound Canvas received a commendation for innovative use of multi-sound technology in an art work which is accessible to everyone.
English Heritage’s Disability in Time and Place web project was commended for its innovative combining of high-quality written and visual information, exploring the relationship between people with disabilities and buildings, from medieval times to modern day.
Finally, Roaring Girl Productions’ Bedding Out 48-hour gallery-based performance about the benefits system was commended for an innovative use of social media in opening up the on-site performance to an online audience.
An International Award for accessible digital culture in a non-UK based website was granted to the Association Valentin Hauy for its Eole website, a digital library which provides accessible books to ‘print impaired’ people for free.
Marcus Weissen, Expert - Centre Européen d'Accessibilité Culturelle and Jodi Mattes Trustee, praised the Association's user involvement and testing, describing it as "an impeccably accessible Eole site, which elegantly caters for all print disabilities"
Set up in 2003, the Jodi Awards pay tribute to Jodi Mattes (1973 – 2001) whose enthusiastic commitment to inclusivity for all was contagious. While working at the British Museum, Jodi made sure that there were desks of variable height in the new Hamlyn Library and in the Reading Room, organised user testing for the museum's COMPASS website and worked on accessible text descriptions. Later, at the Royal National Institute of Blind People, she undertook a national survey of how theatres manage audio description services. In the spirit of Jodi's commitment, the Awards became a vehicle for celebrating, promoting and inspiring best practice that makes a difference in the lives of disabled people.
The Jodi Awards, now in their tenth year, are a benchmark of an organisation’s excellence in demonstrating a universally inclusive approach; and this year’s shortlist, more than any other so far, says Chair of the 2013 judging team “should make a significant impact on the Culture and Heritage sectors; placing accessible design in the heart of national and local galleries, museums, libraries and archives.”