How frustrating it must be to be denied access to places you really want to visit, because you can’t get in or around the venue. And it must be nerve wracking to throw caution to the wind and turn up, not completely sure if there will be difficult steps, or enough space to turn your wheelchair.
So it was a pleasure and a responsibility to be asked to advise on language accessibility, for VisitEngland and VisitScotland’s upgraded Accessibility Guides website.
The website enables tourism operators to publish online accessibility guides, so people with accessibility needs can make informed decisions about where to visit.
To serve the largest possible audience, VisitEngland and VisitScotland recognised that reducing language barriers was as important as reducing physical barriers. There were two target audiences – the tourism operators, and the visitors or potential visitors who would read the guides. It was important that language was accessible for both audience groups.
The project was different from anything I had worked on before: businesses were to respond to a series of questions, which would automatically generate text. The main focus of my work was to construct questions, and multiple-choice answers, that would automatically generate readable, relevant, public-facing, online information.
The biggest challenges were to ensure that generated content was cohesive, and met all circumstances. The construction of the questions and answers was technically very difficult, as the totality of possible circumstances did not fit together neatly, with little semantic or syntactic consistency. I manipulated the content to create a logical progression of questions and answers. User testing was essential to ensure the questions and generated content were understood, and true to the experiences and needs of both audience groups.
The final website was simpler and more standardised than the previous format. User testing showed the site was easier for businesses to complete, and easier for people with accessibility needs to use.
John Glen, UK Government Minister for Tourism, said: ‘These guides give clear accessibility information to make it easier for disabled visitors to plan their trips with confidence.’
Sally Balcombe, VisitEngland Chief Executive, said: ‘The accessibility guides will allow travellers to compare attractions and … make an informed choice.’
Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland Chief Executive, said: ‘This website helps businesses produce informative guides in a user-friendly format … (to) promote inclusion and enable all our customers to have the opportunity … to live life in the same way as anybody else.’
For out more about the Accessibility Guides.