Working at National Gallery Singapore changed the way this 30-year-old views digital accessibility
Beyond helping people with disabilities, Jocelyn learnt how accessibility can help those who do not have access to online resources or are not tech-savvy.
What comes to mind when accessibility is mentioned? Jocelyn Ang, 30, used to think it was
about helping those with disabilities or some sort of impairment.
Her thinking changed when she joined the National Gallery Singapore (NGS) as part of the National Youth Council’s YouthTech Programme. Working with the Gallery’s community and access department, Jocelyn was exposed to underserved communities and their need for accessibility.
The NYC YouthTech Programme, which ended in September 2022, provided young graduates and working adults up till 35 years old with full-time traineeship opportunities in various industries, particularly those in social and community sectors.
Working with partners in the people and private sector, the YouthTech Programme enabled youths to contribute toward digitalisation efforts while providing opportunities for development through meaningful work experience.
The YouthTech opportunity came at a time when Jocelyn, a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) graduate, was struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic as a freelancer. Photography and videography assistant jobs were few and far between, while the grants offered to self-employed persons by the Government weren’t enough for her to feel certain about her future.
“If the grant runs out and I’m still not able to find jobs, then it’s gonna be a very tough situation. It was quite a struggle at that time,” recalls Jocelyn, who adds that she chanced upon YouthTech while browsing for courses online.
“(The YouthTech opportunity) was like a double-win, I could get a bit of income and develop new skills.”
During the YouthTech programme, Jocelyn had the opportunity to work as a technical specialist with the National Gallery Singapore. She was under the impression that she would gain a full range of technical skills, but found herself stepping up as middleman managing vendors instead.
Jocelyn also contributed to the National Gallery’s Slow Art Guide, where she handled the translation, editing and recording of the programme series where art appreciation meets slow looking and mindfulness.
How working with underserved communities broadened her horizons
Jocelyn picked up new perspectives in the Gallery’s community and access department that works with underserved communities and makes the Gallery more accessible and inclusive in both the physical and digital realms.
One project Jocelyn worked on that helped her better understand physical accessibility is the Gallery’s Calm Room, intended to calm those who are overstimulated or overwhelmed.
Apart from researching and procuring sensory items, such as fidget toys and weighted blankets, she also worked on physical copies of access resources placed in the Calm Room.
Jocelyn and her team were also adamant in pushing for the Calm Room to be open for all.
“We don’t want it to be locked behind and people have to ‘out’ themselves to be able to use the room. We thought it was a good space for advocacy because everybody might need some space and time for respite.”
Digitally, Jocelyn helped reorganise the Gallery’s accessibility webpage. Beyond readable guidelines, her work crossed over to mediums that one might not normally consider: such as having captions for videos, being able to navigate a website with only a keyboard (as not everyone has a mouse) and having alternative text.
Another consideration Jocelyn highlighted is how designers her age would put out small fonts that are “aesthetically pleasing”, but it would be difficult for elderly readers.
Jocelyn pointed out she can now pick up these considerations without thinking too hard about it because of her traineeship with the Gallery. She also gained soft skills when interacting with various community groups and how her superiors and colleagues handled situations.
“It really helped broaden my horizons quite a bit,” she shares.
Pushing for greater accessibility
When an assistant manager role at the community and access department was made available, Jocelyn applied for it and was hired after a rigorous interview process.
Now a full-time staff in the same department, Jocelyn has come a long way. She is also pursuing her Masters in Translation and Interpretation in NTU – a journey she embarked on while on traineeship – while advocating for greater accessibility in her work.
Commenting about how the pandemic caused a “shift” online, she explained how not everyone would have access to online resources. She added that accessibility goes beyond those with disabilities and can extend to those who are not so tech-savvy.
“What we think about accessibility may always be like ‘Oh, it’s really for persons with disabilities’ but I feel like after doing so much work, it really is about considering these things that people have not thought about because they are always designing for people like themselves.”
Though an arguably noble cause, Jocelyn and her team did face pushback during their projects. She points out how there are limited local resources when covering accessibility, to the extent that her team had to refer to US websites as examples.
They also faced scrutiny for “putting so much resources” into “something that won’t be realised or experienced by the majority of people”.
However, Jocelyn sees this as a worthy cause to fight for. She said: “This is the base-line we (National Gallery Singapore) are trying to create. We truly want to be an inclusive museum.
“It’s not about trying to hit those numbers, but it’s about trying to include everybody.”
For more information about the YouthTech programme and career-related resources, click here.