Several weeks ago, British Vogue’s Reframing Fashion issue hit the newsstands, and with it a “new vanguard of disabled talent”. Cover stars included actor Selma Blair, model Ellie Goldstein, American Sign Language performer Justina Miles – who blew audiences away during Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show – and Sinéad Burke, whose accessibility consultancy Tilting the Lens was instrumental in shaping the issue, which, for the first time in Vogue history, was entirely retold in audio and Braille. The publication has promised to make these formats available for at least the next year, alongside a suite of other accessibility considerations, such as improved audio and image descriptions across its editorial and social content.
“We knew that we wanted to create a Vogue that was as accessible to as many people as possible and there was a real desire among the team who worked on the project – Vogue along with Sinéad Burke and Tilting the Lens – to achieve this for those who are visually impaired or blind,” says Mark Russell, global print strategy lead and European content operations director of Vogue. “But, in truth, we had no real knowledge at all as to how we would do this.”
The team consulted with the sight loss charity RNIB, which he says provided invaluable advice on how to create the best accessible editions as possible for the two million people experiencing sight loss in the UK alone. “In a sense, I was keen for our team to not try to second guess what should and shouldn’t be included in an audio or Braille edition,” he explains. “I wanted to avoid bringing our own biases and prejudices as sighted readers and making assumptions regarding what aspects another reader may want described, explained or brought to life.”