A Periodic Broadside
for Arts and Culture Workers
Institute for Community Arts Studies
Arts & Administration Program, University of Oregon
Creating an Arts Access Guide on the World Wide Web: Access to Art in Portland, Oregon
In light of this, I will outline a recent project regarding the accessibility of performing arts services in Portland, Oregon. As a result of this project, a Web-based performing arts access guide for Portland was created and can be accessed at <http://www.pdxaccessart.org>. The goal of this project was to inspire more people to take advantage of the many accessible performing arts opportunities in Portland, and to show the need for more available and accessible programming. Although this project is a small step, I envision an arts community that begins to automatically address accessibility in the creation of any facility, program or communication vehicle. An arts access guide can be created for any community and can be a catalyst for further discussion regarding accessibility issues. The following narrative addresses the steps taken and resources used to create Portland's performing arts access guide. A similar approach can be applied to any organization and/or community wishing to create a comparable resource.
Portland's Web-based performing arts access guide provides information for participants of performing arts experiences with disabilities that will enable them to attend events more easily and be better informed about Portland performing arts accessibility. A Web-based guide was created in order to reach the largest possible audience in the most cost effective manner.
The following steps were followed in order to complete the guide:
1. Information was collected about Portland performing arts access services
2. Performing arts access needs of people with disabilities were researched
3. Web site accessibility guidelines were reviewed, and
4. A Web site was created using the compiled information.
Organizations that did not respond to the survey were still included in the site. However, only contact information is included on the site for those organizations. Most survey response questions directly contributed to the online access guide.
Access guide information from the survey responses included:
1. Organization name, Address, Phone, TTY, fax, email and URL.Organizations' responses to the survey questions were recorded verbatim in a FileMaker database and then exported to an Excel file where responses were standardized in order to create a workable search function in the Web site. This search function was designed to match Disability Access Symbols by the Graphic Artists Guild <http://www.gag.org> to those access services that are applicable.
2. Contact person and their job title.
3. Artistic Discipline.
4. Services/Programs specifically designed for people with disabilities.
5. Services/Programs accessible on a regular basis.
6. Performance venue address if applicable.
7. Performance venue accessible entrance.
8. Performance venue seating information.
9. Other performance venues used by each organization.
10. Accessible office and venue parking information.
11. Tri-Met (Portland Metropolitan area public transportation) information.
12. Box office phone, TTY, fax, and email if applicable.
13. Special seating arrangements for people with disabilities are honored.
14. Other ticketing services utilized by the organization.
The first focus group meeting informed what elements should be included in the site, how the site navigation should flow for people with disabilities and the consideration of basic performing arts access needs of people with disabilities. Focus group participants recommended that the access guide include contact information including an appropriate contact person from each organization, address of organization, phone, TTY, and fax as well as email and the Web site URL if applicable. Focus group members also recommended that the site include the specific access services available for people with disabilities, a way for people to send comments or questions about the Web site, and links to organizations that have information about accessibility issues. Focus group participants were also asked to draw how the Web site navigation should flow for the people with disabilities who might use it.
The second focus group meeting regarded
how to refine the Web site prototype in order to make it more accessible
and useful for people with disabilities. Suggestions included fine tuning
the site by creating more contrast in navigation bar colors, adding the
Disability Access Symbols <http://www.gag.org>
to the search function results and organization list, placing the symbols
legend higher on the navigation bar to make it easier to find, and moving
the event lists link lower on the navigation.
Many Web site accessibility guidelines address the design of sites for use by as many people as possible and encompass a wide range of strategies to consider in the construction of a Web site. The most common considerations are: designing a site for multiple platforms and browser capabilities, considerations of graphics, appropriate use of copy and color, form and functionality, multi-accessible HTML, and compatibility with available assistive technology. The following is a list of Web Site accessibility guidelines that I recommend:
These recommended resources reveal several useful Web design accessibility tools published by well respected organizations and institutions. It is important when creating a Web site, especially one specifically designed to benefit people with disabilities, to remember that:
Early in the creation of the Web site a Web map or flow chart was created to decide the Web sites' hierarchy and navigation flow. Titles of pages and their content were laid out to help the developer organize the Web site according to the most logical flow and design. The first focus group meeting was an important factor in deciding the navigation flow, pages and components of the Web site.
After the Web map was created, a storyboard was developed that took the Web map's ideas further. The storyboard allowed for each page to be clearly laid out before actual construction and design. Guidance for the web map and storyboard creation was found in Interactivity by Design (Kristof and Satran, 1995).
Portland's Arts Access Guide Web site pages include:
As users identify results of a specific search, they can select an organization that matched their search criteria and go to a page with more detailed information about that organization's survey data and even go to that organization's Web site if applicable. Nineteen Disability Access Symbols <http://www.gag.org> and arts discipline symbols were used in the site to aid accessibility of information for people who have cognitive disabilities.
The site was designed using a Web site accessibility checklist that was created based on the review of Web site accessibility guidelines. The site also utilized style sheets based on the recommendations of W3C. A template and Cascading Style Sheets were used to control layout while maintaining flexibility for the variety of users' needs. Single cell tables were used to create color blocks and the navigation bar instead of images that might take the site longer to download and not as accessible. For all images used without descriptive text next to them, a D link was used. D links are a standard for accessible Web sites and the concept was developed by the National Center for Accessible Media <http://www.wgbh.org/wgbh/pages/ncam>. A D link is a link to a page that describes the image in detail for users of screen readers and/or those who cannot access images.
After these initial steps, it was imperative that a server for the site be determined. Useractive.com, a service available through the University of Illinois, now hosts the site <http://www.useractive.com>. By utilizing Useractive.com, security implications with the site's data could be restrained. It is now possible to manage the site remotely and still maintain the database through a secure area that is on-site.
Due to the substantial amount of dynamic data and the site's main focus on search capability, it was important to create a site that was easily searchable, active, and long-term maintainable. An embedded scripting language was used called PHP. PHP is specially designed for database access and presenting data via the Internet and has a Web site that includes all information on using PHP <http://www.php.net>. MySQL (structured query language) was also used, based on its Web site information, as a standardized relational database language that allows the use of a database structure on the Web site without having the design tied to commercial software <http://www.mysql.com>. Both PHP and MySQL are open-source products that many ISP's use for data searches. The Web-based arts access guide was designed using documented HTML standards instead of custom language. Open Internet HTML standards allows for a more accessible Web site.
After the Web-based arts access guide was designed and functioning, and the second focus group informed initial revisions, the site was tested on multiple browsers from 3.0 to 5.0, screen reader software for Macintosh titled outSPOKEN <http://www.aagi.com/aagi/outspoken_products.html>, and on both Macintosh and PC compatible platforms. The site was also submitted to "Bobby" for an accessibility check. In order to build awareness of the access guide's existence, a postcard was designed to send out to arts organizations surveyed as well as appropriate organizations that serve people with disabilities in Portland.
Collett, S. (1999, June 7). ‘Bobby’ beat: Enabling web for all. Computer World News and Features. Retrieved February 13, 2000 from the World Wide Web: <http://computerworld.com/home/print.nsf/all/990607ABF6>
Kristof, R. & Satran, A. (1995). Interactivity by design: Creating and communicating with new media. Mountain View, CA: Adobe Press.
McGrane, S. (2000, January 26). Is the Web truly accessible to the disabled? C/Net Tech Trends. Retrieved February 15, 2000 from the World Wide Web: <http://home.cnet.com.specialreports/0-6014-7-1530073>
Shapiro, J. (1993). No pity. New York: Times Books.
Waters, C. (1997). Universal Web design:
A comprehensive guide to creating accessible Web sites. Indianapolis: New
Kim Ruthardt Knowles is currently working for the Arts-in-Education Program in Portland, OR. Previously, she worked as the Grants Specialist for Portland's Regional Arts & Culture Council, which included the restructuring of the Grants Program and the creation of an individual artist fellowship program. Her background also includes work with VSA Arts of Oregon, museum education work and committee work with several arts and cultural organizations in the Portland area. She has a M.S. in Arts Administration with an emphasis in Community Arts from the University of Oregon; and a B.A. in Arts Administration with a minor in Art History from Whitworth College in Spokane, WA.
May, 1997. Volume 1, No. 1: A Tool for Analysis of Web Sites' Accessibility to Users with Disabilities. Douglas Blandy, Ph.D. July, 1997. Volume 1, No. 2: The Arts Management Employment Interview. Deborah Snider November, 1997. Volume 1, No. 3: The Invisible Careers for Latinos: Public History and Museum Studies. Miguel Juarez February, 1998. Volume 2, No. 1: Art Crimes: Building a Digital Museum/Graffiti Battle Crown. Susan Farrell April, 1998. Volume 2, No. 2: The Florida Farmworkers Project. Kristin Congdon. June, 1998. Vol. 2, No. 3: The Arts as Commodity, Stan Madeja; The Non-Profit and Commercial Arts: Understanding Future Options, David B. Pankratz September, 1998 Vol. 2 No.4: What Is Community Cultural Development and How Do We Practice It? Bill Flood January, 1999 Vol. 3 No.1: The Rise and Fall of the California Confederation of the Arts: 1976 - 1997. Anne W. Smith April, 1999 Vol. 3 No. 2: Paul Olum Mobile Hemi-Bust, Michael Randles; Outlaw Murals, Laura Feldman July, 1999. Vol. 3, No. 3: Economic and Leisure Factors Impacting Participation in the Arts by Middle Aged Adults, Gaylene Carpenter, Ed.D.; WESTAF Launches www.artjob.org, Searchable Arts Employment and Opportunities Web Site. September, 1999. Vol. 3, No. 4: Art Teacher Censorship of Student Produced Art in Georgia's Public High Schools. Bruce Bowman January, 2000. Vol. 4, No. 1: Community Arts Councils: Historical Perspective (Part I.) Maryo Ewell. Family-Focused Programming Between the Arts and Social Services. Barbara Harris April, 2000. Vol. 4, No. 2: Community Arts Councils: Historical Perspective (Part II.) Maryo Ewell; Thinking Ahead: Disaster Preparedness for Museums. Yvonne Lever June, 2000. Vol. 4, No. 3: Community Arts Councils: Historical Perspective (Part III.) Maryo Ewell; Why is the Mona Lisa Smiling? Steve Feld September 2000. Vol. 5, No. 1: Community Arts Councils: Historical Perspective, Maryo Ewell; The Montana Study, Clayton Funk
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