OpenSpeaks Accessibility

OpenSpeaks Accessibility is an open toolkit for language archivists on how to create permanent, accessible and inclusive audiovisual archives.

  • Laila Le Guen, Subhashish Panigrahi

OpenSpeaks is a platform that works together with communities to co-design open resources for the documentation of indigenous, endangered and in other ways marginalized languages. As part of the UNLOCK Accelerator the team of OpenSpeaks is developing an accessibility toolkit for language archivists on how to create permanent, accessible and inclusive audiovisual archives.

Project documentation


Social media:

Interim report from September 2021:

Showcase at the UNLOCK Demo Day in October 2021:

Project description

What problem does the project solve?

The toolkit responds to the need for digital content in languages that are currently under-resourced. A number of activist communities and individuals across the world are developing their own audiovisual content, and while these projects have incredible potential to expand access to information and language diversity in online spaces, greater consideration of people with disabilities is needed to fully realize the vision of a truly open web.

What is the intended purpose of the project?

“We want to empower and equip communities to create multimedia documentations with digital accessibility in mind.”

Language documentation helps in keeping historical records of a society, in protecting cultures and in furthering the growth of languages through practical use. The OpenSpeaks Accessibility toolkit will help low-resource language speakers identify the critical accessibility needs during audiovisual linguistic documentation, and ensure that published materials are available in the long term. 

Going forward the toolkit will pave the way for all media creators/users. This open toolkit is an opportunity to invite language activists and disability rights advocates to create closer bonds of solidarity, in a digital age that too often leaves speakers of under-resourced languages as well as people with disabilities out of the conversation, resulting in a lack of comprehensiveness, diversity and ultimately a lack in trust in online information.

How does your project address the problem?

The OpenSpeaks team intends to reach out to various low-resource language archivist communities to assess their responsiveness to accessibility needs as well as their challenges when it comes to applying certain accessibility standards. This research will feed into an online guide/toolkit addressing gaps and recurring issues. 

The guide will have three interlocked objectives: 

  • increase awareness of accessibility needs with regards to audiovisual content within language activist communities; 
  • provide appropriate guidelines that can serve as a stepping stone for language communities to adopt their own accessibility standards as part of their workflow, and 
  • provide details on tools and other resources that the archivists can use based on their own setup and constraints.

Which target groups does the project address?

The audience for this guide to accessibility of audiovisual materials are language archivists who are working on documenting oral histories and furthering the active use of their language. The majority are not native English speakers and may not have access to mainstream resources pertaining to accessibility, but they do have a keen interest in pursuing digital inclusion through language and cultural activism, a frame of reference that makes them particularly sensitive to different types of exclusion.