Below is my application (which was accepted!) to THATcamp 2009, “a user-generated ‘unconference‘ on digital humanities organized and hosted by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, June 27–28, 2009.”
Discussion Topic: How can digital humanities projects with scholarly significance be designed with the needs of vision-impaired end users at the forefront of consideration while still keeping the needs of vision-enabled end users in mind?
Details: I am pursuing funding to create an online, digital archive of the 150 years worth of material in the archives at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind. This project will use Omeka for the stand-alone archive, but I also plan to contribute the digitized material to the South Carolina Digital Library Project. Making this material available to researchers worldwide will make a significant contribution to the study of the history of pedagogy and disability.
However, in addition to the task of digitizing the material (which I don’t anticipate will present significant challenges), I would like to investigate or develop best practices for accessibility in the design of digital archives of this kind (which I anticipate will).
Visually-impaired end users take advantage of digital technologies for “accessibility” that (with their oral/aural and tactile interfaces) are fascinatingly different than the standard monitor-keyboard-mouse combination, forcing us to rethink our embodied relationship to data.
Furthermore, opening up the field of digital humanities to the issues associated with disability studies makes an even broader range of funding sources available.
While at THATcamp I’d like to talk with other end users (and, hopefully, developers) about their experience with or advice concerning these issues.