The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), the Guardian, and Google have launched Auditorial, which probes questions about how the web can become a more flexible, inclusive place for people with disabilities.
The three industries have come together "combining the accessibility expertise of the RNIB, the storytelling expertise of the Guardian, and the technical expertise of Google," all of whom believe that the web should enable users to tailor websites to suit their personal sensory needs and preferences.
Over 300 million people have a vision impairment, yet 97% of website home pages do not meet accessibility requirements, preventing blind and low vision readers from genuinely enjoying storytelling.
Director of Services for RNIB, David Clarke, said: "Far too many websites are not accessible. For people who use assistive technology like a screen reader or screen magnifier, the frustration of not being able to use or navigate a website is all too common. At best, it's an unnecessary annoyance, but at worst it can mean feeling locked out of key information and services."
The three industries believe that online storytelling can be as rich and creative for the blind and low vision community as sighted people. The new website's content provided by The Guardian tells the story of 'The Silent Spring' - about a soundscape ecologist who has been tracking the effects of the climate crisis through sound for 50 years.
The storytelling experience gives the reader a choice to experience the story in three ways - as a fully customisable audio-visual experience, a written article, or by reading along with closed captions.
It also allows the user to customise visual designs and audio, including zoom level, colour palette, image enhancement, motion, playback speed, and button sounds. So, for example, if someone has photophobia, a light sensitivity, they can flip the story into a dark mode, and all animations take on a darker form. Or, if someone had faded colour vision, they can enhance all the imagery.
Creative Lead at Google Brand Studio in EMEA, Kate Barker, said: "We hope this experimental project will raise awareness and spark a broader discussion about how the web in its entirety could become a more inclusive place for people with disabilities, simply by offering different modes of interaction."