Exeter Royal Academy For Deaf Education
Website Design & Development
The Exeter Royal Academy For Deaf Education is a charity that has been in Exeter for nearly 190 years. Their vision is to see Deaf people as valued members of society - well eduacted, happy, confident and independent. The Academy provides a day and residential school for children at primary and secondary levels, and a college for older students. Deaf students in mainsteam schools are supported via the Academy outreach service and various Deaf services and projects engage the wider Deaf community.
We have helped the Deaf Academy with several major design projects over the last decade, including the successful rebranding of the organisation in 2008. This long-standing relationship gives us invaluable insight into the unique challenges of designing materials that appeal and communicate to both the Deaf and hearing communities.
As Jonathan Farnhill, Chief Executive of the Deaf Academy explains, "The Deaf Academy is a complex and demanding client. The need to have a website that enables two languages - English and British Sign Language - to co-exist on an equal footing is challenging, particularly as you need to use film when communicating in BSL. Additionally, deaf people who use sign language see things visually and so the appearance and energy of the site is also very important. We also wanted something visual which helped people understand where they are on the site, and that highlighted the difference between the different kinds of provision the Deaf Academy has, and the colours and icons do this beautifully. Add in the usual demands for the site to be easy to update, to be accessible on many different platforms, and to offer good interactivity, and you have a challenging brief."
Our approach was to give the user the choice of how they wanted to view the information on the site - this might be: audio-visual with subtitles; visual with British Sign Language (BSL); or as text. Importantly, this solution ensures that no visitor is disadvantaged when accessing the site. Of course, it also means that all the content has to be interpreted, filmed and uploaded using the inbuilt content management system.
Developing a good user experience was a key challenge, particularly with such a large and complex site. We focussed on how the information might be broken down into 'easy to navigate' sections and ultimately the site was split into 4 main sections: 1) School; 2) College; 3) Deaf Sevices; and 4) Support Us. In addition there is a password protected 'Parents Area' that allows the Academy to securely communicate with parents and guardians, many of whom live many hundreds of miles from Exeter.
As is clear from user feedback, Toucan have more than met the challenges of the brief. They have designed and produced an excellent website which gives the most positive portal into the Deaf Academy and its work. We are delighted with it.
Jonathan Farnhill - Chief Executive
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