GoGenie the digital access project that we received £25K from Arts Council England WM earlier this year is finally gearing to be a reality – starting with user experience consultation with Disabled people in January 2011. We are aiming for a prototype to be available by late Spring 2011 in time to secure more funding to build and launch it.

If you’re browsing online wanting to go out to a theatre, the cinema, a shop, the pub, a supermarket, the post office, even pay your council tax  and have a disability or access needs, it’s really hard to find relevant and intuitively placed information online.

It’s even harder to book and get the right seating you need (and what about concessions).

If  you spend lots of time just working out where it is on the website. What words do you use? Do you use the word ‘access’, ‘disabled’ or worse ‘special needs’. How about ‘visitor information’?

You’ll often be led around the houses, click upon click in the ‘plan your visit’ section only to be presented with a long page of text or you give up and will have lenghty phonecalls to get that information (if you can navigate the automated answerphone options).

Or you get information online and it turns out to be wrong or you get there and the induction loop/lift is broken.

Or you have an awful experience because of the state of the accessible toilet (aka store cupboard/baby changing room).

Do you complain? Or like many of us do you never go back again?

Many people also may have invisible access requirements, such as learning or mental health needs, and wouldn’t even think they need to ask questions to make sure their visit is a good one.

If you are nodding away or saying ‘yes’ at this point please get in touch or leave comments at the bottom about your experiences – we want to hear from you.

So how is GoGenie set to change all that?

We are starting with the cultural sector  in the West Midlands (that’s museums, libraries, arts centres, galleries, theatres, cinemas etc) then branching out (to everything else).

We are creating an integrated online service that hooks into venue and promoter websites and what’s on guides including mobile apps, so that you can find accurate, up to date and helpful access information, whether you’re checking out what’s on, or are ready to buy your ticket. It won’t be just another website created you will find this information easily everywhere.

As well presenting info and data in a visually simple way, OLILI is to include the sorts of tipoffs and knowledge you only get from others who are familiar with the space. In other words we Disabled and Deaf people are the experts with local knowledge of where is accessible for us. It could be any of the following and even more:

  • Where are there subtitled screenings taking place?
  • For BSL interpreted performances where is the best sitting area?
  • What the induction loop is like sound wise?
  • How far to sit from the stage to lipread a performer?
  • What the wheelchair seating arrangements are like?
  • What are the staff like?
  • Where to park nearby to the nearest accessible entrance?
  • Best transport options?
  • Who to contact (directly)?

It will even grow to include the whole visiting experience, from access-friendly journey planning, and where to go for a drink before and after. It will use the best of social media and be fully accessible.

It’s aimed at Disabled people, their families and friends who want this all important access information so as a member of  the public you have a seamless, pleasurable visit to any venue in the UK whatever their access needs may be.

Sounds like a marketing ploy doesn’t it? Well the project is led by Disabled and Deaf people (Alison Smith has 17 years experience of Disability arts access) and we are involving Disabled people every step of the way.

So what about all the spaces you want to visit? – what is in it for them? Venues, galleries, cinemas, theatres will have access a market that is currently ignored.

With 20% of the population unable to access everyday services because of inaccessible websites or premises it makes economic sense since Disabled people are worth £80Billion a year)

For these organisations they will benefit from greater communications around access needs with social media at the heart of it creating an easy way to reach a marginalised audience and even an easier way to deal with complaints quickly and more easily.

User Experience workshops consultations

In January 2011 we will undertaking consultation meetings with different groups of Disabled people in the WM working closely with Alan McLean from Black Country Touring who leadsWorking Parts Disabled Arts website and programme . We are consulting a range of Disabled people including those with physical disabilities, visual impairment, Deafness and Learning Disabilities. Lizzie Ostrom a user experience Consultant from A+E will be delivering this working closely with Alan.

A UX Developer (someone who does the programming of web platforms) will be creating OLILI while we are in the workshops. That way we get to test out what works and what looks great, what access issues there are and how it works visually – during the sessions.

Art organisations are being consulted in a simiar way and again Lizzie will be working with Audiences Central and there will also be an online questionnaire (to be promoted next week).

Tell us what is important – online questionnaire – coming soon

We want to get as many responses as possible and will have an easy to fill online questionnaire for both Disabled/Deaf people and cultural organisations so we can widen and reach as many people as possible.

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