NetHui 2014 – lessons in accessibility and community

By Tamara Patten, Communications Officer, National Services Te Paerangi

During July, I travelled to Auckland to attend NetHui, a conference about all things internet. As National Services Te Paerangi has just developed a new website, and since building digital capacity in the museum sector is something we’re particularly focused on, off I went to see what I could learn and bring back to share with the museum sector.

And learn I did. In the interest of brevity I’ll cover my two top NetHui sessions (but if you’re interested learning in more, collective notes for each conference session are available on the Nethui website).

Making online content accessible

On the first day, Jason Kiss from DIA and Neil Jarvis of the Blind Foundation delivered a thought-provoking presentation on online accessibility. Neil demonstrated his screen reader, and talked about ways websites can be arranged to make them more accessible for blind people. Top tips:

  • links and headings should be clearly worded to allow effective use of the screen reader
  • graphics and images should also be well described.

Radio NZ’s website was held up as a good example of an accessible site, with well described links and images.

If you’re developing a new online project, the best approach is to make access a priority at the very beginning of your development. So often, access considerations are tacked on as an afterthought, making them less effective. The Blind Foundation has resources and staff that can advise on ways to make your website more accessible – learn more on their website.

Of course, accessibility issues are not restricted to the blind community. Physical disabilities, deafness and cognitive disabilities need to be considered. And access issues extend to other communities as well – people may be prevented from accessing your content due to cultural, generational or linguistic barriers. Arts Access Aotearoa has a broad range of resources covering accessibility which are useful for museums and galleries. Check out ‘Arts For All’ on their website.

Online communities

Another interesting session was one dedicated to online communities. National Services Te Paerangi’s new website, All That Remains, is an online community which allows museums and galleries to showcase their WWI-related collections, so I was eager for more ideas about making the site successful long term. Key points out of this session were:

  • succession planning – the importance of writing a good plan for whoever looks after your online community next
  • delegation – projects are more successful long term if responsibilities are shared
  • build a community of communities – managers of online communities can provide support for each other.

My next job is to get in touch with some of the online community managers I met at the conference to talk about how we can share ideas and help each other out.

My thanks to InternetNZ and Catalyst for granting me the fellowship which allowed me to attend NetHui. I really appreciated the opportunity.

Tamara Patten