NEoN Digital Arts Archive
This is version 2.0 of the NEoN Digital Arts Accessibility Strategy, created by Beatrix Livesey-Stephens. In NEoN’s mission to bring digital arts to everyone, considering accessibility is extremely important. This document is a step in making sure NEoN can provide access for disabled individuals and fulfilling that mission. We live in a rapidly changing world, and accessibility is no exception – there are always new accessibility measures being developed, and new technology to create art with. This document is a living document, and will continue to evolve with new information and guidance as the state of accessibility and digital art changes. Ongoing conversations are needed every time NEoN considers something new and the state of the intersection of digital art and accessibility changes. Most of what is in this document is from other sources, and I have highlighted these places in the references section. We would especially like to thank Glasgow-based theatre company, Birds of Paradise.
This document is mainly focused on accessibility for disabled people (i.e physical accessibility, accessibility for neurodivergent people, web accessibility, and more detailed in this document), but accessibility more broadly includes socio-economic accessibility, digital accessibility (i.e relating to digital poverty), and cultural inclusion. Accessibility is all about inclusion, and this includes everyone.
When curating an event, programme of events, or general commission, it is important to keep accessibility at the forefront. Accessibility is something that should be baked in, not added on at the last minute. By choosing accessible platforms, accessible language, and booking captioners and interpreters in advance, and involving them in the process, you are actually reducing the workload and crunch time involved, and making the programme and experience of accessibility more effective. This includes telling people (i.e coworkers, artists, and anyone else) why a specific thing is needed from them, as it helps to see how every bit of information will fit together in the end, and broadens knowledge of accessibility for everyone involved. So much of accessibility activism ends up trying to reinvent the wheel. If you are unsure whether something has been done before, or how to implement a measure, look it up on the internet. It is likely that someone has done it before you.
No piece of art can be “fully accessible”, and should not be labelled as such. In fact, what makes a piece accessible to some people can make it inaccessible to others. In the words of tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG) designer Jay Dragon (paraphrased):
“Please consider conflicting access needs and insert that phrase into your vocabulary. For example, the medium of podcasts [is] not inaccessible in itself — they are an artistic medium. if you struggle to process them (as I do), then you have an access need if you want to engage with them (in my case, transcripts). If you request your access need and the podcaster is unable to provide them, then that podcast is inaccessible for you. (This is a morally neutral statement! There are many reasons why a podcaster might not be able to provide that). This doesn’t mean the podcaster should be writing articles instead of podcasting — long articles can also be inaccessible for people, there is no perfect method of communicating information which everyone can immediately understand. In some cases, we might have conflicting access needs — maybe you need the text in bright red comic sans for your dyslexia, and my migraines make it impossible for me to process that without getting a headache. Ultimately, access needs are individual and complicated, and pointing to a medium or an artistic work and branding it inaccessible is a distortion of that language's purpose and makes it harder to discuss ableism and accessibility.”
The guide is meant to support NEoN in making sure the organisation is as accessible as possible, and recognising that accessibility takes many different forms. Accessibility takes time and effort, and hopefully the further sources and reading are helpful for structuring and building on current accessibility practices. The more work goes into refining and streamlining accessibility practices, the easier it is to implement these practices in the future, and the more people are able to access digital arts.