2022 Excellence in Visual Digital Storytelling, Large Newsroom finalist

Inaccessible Cities

About the Project

Inaccessible Cities offers an intimate look into the everyday struggles of three women living with disabilities in New York City, Lagos and Mumbai. The interactive web experience is produced by Al Jazeera Digital’s media innovation studio, AJ Contrast. The project combines our award-winning reporting with original photography, video, text, audio, infographics and gamification to create a multi-city interactive that draws viewers in through visually striking design and immersive storytelling.

More than one billion people — approximately 15% of the global population — experience some form of disability. Unlike other marginalized groups, anyone can develop a physical disability due to an accident, illness or, simply, old age. People with disabilities are some of the most excluded in our society. And in cities — which continue to grow each day — without accessible public transport and infrastructure, they find it very challenging to fully and independently participate in society.

We decided to explore this issue through the stories of three women, since the majority – three quarters – of people with disabilities in low and middle-income countries are women. And they are at even higher risk of poverty, neglect and abuse than men. In Inaccessible Cities, we meet Rebecca Lamorte, a former New York City Council candidate, Olajumoke Olajide, an athlete from Lagos, and Nidhi Goyal, an activist and comedian from Mumbai.

Covering the issue that rarely draws attention of the mainstream media, we wanted to create an interactive experience that would be intuitive, informative, and highly engaging. We used a variety of multimedia assets to build a non-linear but cohesive narrative. A mobile-first experience that is adapted for desktops and tablets, Inaccessible Cities features vertical scrolling, and has a menu function that allows users to choose their own path through the story.

The gamification part of Inaccessible Cities simulates the daily commute of our characters and is grounded in their and many other people with disabilities’ experiences. It is meant to give users a sense of what it feels like to navigate New York City, Lagos and Mumbai while being disabled – to evoke frustration and discouragement – feelings that are commonly felt by those trying to get around these cities with a disability.

With Inaccessible Cities, we not only report about the challenges faced by people with disabilities, but also create a website that is fully inclusive of our audiences with disabilities. The interactive web experience is compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA standards. It features audio descriptions, alternative text for images and gamification, operable navigation etc. We also adjusted the design and created an additional simplified version to ensure the experience is fully accessible to people with sensory and other disabilities that make it challenging for them to access the interactive in its current form. The result is that Inaccessible Cities has broken new ground, as one of the first accessible digital news interactives of its kind.