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Accessibility on New Art City
Why Accessibility is Important to Us
New Art City is committed to providing accessible tools for visiting and authoring online art experiences. Physical art experiences have traditionally advantaged those with geographic proximity to art spaces, resources to visit, and the physical ability to access those spaces. We acknowledge that the web remains inaccessible to many and we strive to build a digital world which opens those gates. We hope that this work can reverberate back into the physical world.
We prioritize artists disadvantaged by structural injustice in our curation and our technical development. We devote financial and technical resources to historically excluded artists through residencies and commissions, and collaborate with peer institutions who share our values of a gatebroken art world. More information on our residency program here.
Software infrastructure is only one part of web accessibility. We aim to provide exhibition designers the resources to build accessible exhibitions from the ground up. Currently, New Art City spaces include a catalog view where users can access every art work in an exhibition in a 2D screen-reader accessible format. While these features are crucial for disabled visitors, they also make the space more accessible to visitors with limited bandwidth and hardware.
This year, we convened an accessibility panel of four artists and researchers working across varying fields of accessibility and art: Andy Slater, Charlotte Strange, Nat Decker, and Viv Qiu, with whom we meet regularly. They help us gather accessibility resources, make decisions on accessibility improvements, and distribute commission budget. More information on our panelists below.
If you have any feedback, questions, or concerns, please use the contact form linked from the header of our homepage to get in touch.
Current Accessibility Features
- Alt Text
- Alt text is a text description of a media file or 3D space that helps to make your exhibition and artworks accessible. Each artwork and space has voluntary fields for alt-text which are used in the gallery and catalog views. Assistive technologies such as screen readers use alt text to describe the media. Writing alt text is the responsibility of the space editor, and more information about how to do it is at the bottom of this page.
- Catalog View
- Each space has a 2D Catalog view that is generated from the files and metadata entered by the space editors. This page is friendly to assistive technologies and allows users to experience the work even if they are not comfortable or able to enter the 3D space.
Accessibility Features In Our Roadmap
- Audio and Video Caption Support
- We plan to support subtitle files uploaded with audio/video works, and we eventually plan to support auto-generated subtitles for audio and video with spoken word.
- Improved Screenreader Support
- Guided Tours and Automated Gallery Navigation
- Making it easier for users to follow accessibility standards in their projects with documentation and workshops
- Translating more documentation & UI into other languages
- VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template)
- In 2021 New Art City became the first virtual exhibition space to pass VPAT review, allowing us to be used in public universities and federal institutions in the United States. Special thanks to the Digital Media Art department at SJSU for working with us on this.
Steps to Making Your Exhibition Accessible
If your space has strobes, add a strobe warning in your environment description. If any spaces contain explicit content, turn on the “Explicit Content” setting in the “Space Details” section of your space.
Alt-text is the main tool we have for improving exhibition accessibility– linked below are several resources for learning more about web accessibility through alt-text and other strategies.
On each artwork object in the edit page, there are two toggles at the top: “Visible In Gallery” and “Visible In Catalog.” Toggle every primary art object (images, videos, sculptures, audio, etc) visible in catalog. Toggle all architecture and other place-making objects as not visible.
- Write Alt Text for your Space & Artworks
- For Spaces
- Alt text for spaces can be entered under the Space Details section in the "3D Environment Description" field. This text should be a literal description of the visual aspect of the space. This should include major elements of architecture, floorplan or overall layout visible in the exhibition. It does not need descriptions of the artwork, since artworks have their own alt text. Do not repeat text that is present in your show's statement.
- For Artworks
- Artwork alt text should comprehensively describe the content of the image, video or 3D file, including important details. These descriptions typically include the elements that are critical to a person’s understanding of the visual aspect, the scale of the elements, both within the frame and relationally, colors of key elements, the orientation and relationships of image elements, both within the frame and to one another, the medium and style of the work, and the visual appearance of persons present in the work (including age, gender, ethnicity and skin-tone). There is no need to repeat text that is present in your piece’s description.
Web Accessibility Resources (Compiled by Nat Decker)
- Alt-Text As Poetry (link)
- Alt-Text As Poetry is a project led by Bojana Coklyat and Shannon Finnegan which “reframes alt text as a type of poetry and provides opportunities to talk about it and practice writing it.”
- Their book includes an explanation of their approach along with helpful exercises to practice alone or in groups.
- A guide for creating image descriptions developed by MCA Chicago and Prime Access Consulting
- Cooper Hewitt Guidelines for Image Description
- The A11y Project is a community-driven effort to make digital accessibility easier. Their site contains resources for accessible design as well as an accessibility checklist.
- Access Guide is a friendly introduction to digital accessibility to help understand WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), the official resource for legal compliance.