Talking Books & Heritage Centre Win Jodi Mattes Web Access Awards

By David Prudames Published: 13 April 2005

Shows a photograph of MLA Chief Executive Chris Batt shaking the hand of Andrew Lewis of the Web Words project.

MLA Chief Exective Chris Batt present the Excellence Award to Andrew Lewis of the Web Words project. Courtesy Duncan Phillips Photography.

A website providing extracts of audio books and the online face of Pewsey Heritage Centre are the winners of the second Jodi Mattes Accessibility Awards.

Revealed on April 12 at City University’s Cass Business School in London, the winners were selected by a panel of expert judges from a shortlist of six.

While the Excellence with a Low Budget Award went to Pewsey Heritage Centre, the Web Words project received the overall Excellence Award.

Created by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead’s Library and Information Service, Web Words offers users the chance to listen to audio extracts of books held in the authority’s collections.

Shows a screen shot of the Web Words site, featuring a series of links to extracts from audio books.

The Web Words project provides audio extracts of some 500 audio books.

The judges included MLA Health and Disability Advisor Marcus Wiesen, the University of Leicester’s Ross Parry and Nina Baptiste, Access and Audience Development Manager at Yorkshire Museums, Libraries and Archives.

Commenting on Web Words, they said: "it allows users glimpses into a book, much like browsing printed books does."

Organised by the Museums Computer Group, the awards recognise museum, gallery and library websites that emphasise access in their design, navigation and content.

Awarded every two years, they are named in memory of Jodi Mattes (1973-2001) who carried out pioneering work on disabled accessibility for the RNIB and the British Museum where she worked on its renowned COMPASS website.

Receiving a certificate for the award for Excellence with a Low Budget Pewsey Heritage Centre’s honorary manager, Mike Asbury, said: "Thank you very much ... it will go up on our little front door!"

Shows a photograph of MLA Chief Executive Chris Batt shaking the hand of Pewsey Heritage Centre's Mike Asbury.

Chris Batt congratulates Mike Asbury on Pewsey Heritage Centre's success. © 24 Hour Museum.

The Centre operates on a budget of £1000 and is situated in a small Wiltshire village. Run entirely by a team of volunteers, it explores the social, agricultural and industrial history of rural England over the past 150 years.

Funded by Wiltshire County Council, the website was built by local company Gopher System Ltd and completed in February this year.

Mike told the 24 Hour Museum he was "absolutely delighted" with the award: "It gives colossal encouragement to my volunteers," he said. "This is a prize for a website but it recognises what the museum is, it’s a window on our museum."

Shows a screen shot of the Pewsey Heritage Centre website.

Pewsey Heritage Centre explores the social, agricultural and industrial history of rural Wiltshire.

The evening also saw the launch of an MLA report on accessibility in museum sector websites.

Produced by City University, the report is based on an audit of a representative sample of 300 museum, library and archive websites in England. A user panel of blind, partially sighted and dyslexic people was assigned tasks to undertake on each site and was asked to rate each one.

It reveals that although many museum, library and archive websites are still far from accessible to disabled people, the sector’s compliance with accessibility standards is above the national average.

"This report shows that our sector is doing relatively well in developing innovative, accessible websites," said MLA Chief Executive, Chris Batt.

"Across the board museums, libraries and archives are above the national average – and the winners of this year’s Jodi Mattes awards are outstanding examples of what can be achieved," he added. "But there’s still enormous room for improvement. Web accessibility is not an optional extra: it is an essential element of effective online communications."

The other websites shortlisted for the Jodi Mattes Awards were Imagine from Tyne and Wear Museums, the Britten-Pears Library, Milestones and the Revealweb Library Catalogue.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: