The Deaf Society of NSW

15 April 2013

Propeller are proud to announce the launch of the new Deaf Society of NSW website. This new website was designed and built to specifically address the requirements of the deaf community and to replace the society’s ageing flash-based website.

This extensive new website contains too many features to discuss all of them in detail here so I’d just like to summarise the main website features then cover some of the more interesting challenges and how we addressed them.

Visitors to The Deaf Society of NSW website have access to a huge library of information which details the society’s profile, history, operating principles and policies, staff listings, annual reports, planning documents and relationships with other organisations. Dedicated News and Events sections are provided alongside the opportunity to subscribe to the society’s email newsletters.

A full detail of the society’s services is provided including interpreting & translation, courses, employment, consumer & customer services, youth services and family support as well as aged care. A large repository of Auslan Resources is included providing information on topics ranging from Asbestos to Legal, Safe Driving and Smoke Alarms. A further section is dedicated to Deaf Advocacy.

Bi-lingual Presentation -€“ Auslan + English text

The Deaf Society of NSW’s previous website featured mostly video-based Auslan content. The exclusion of Flash from iOS devices however meant that this content could not be accessed via these devices.

In order to ensure cross-platform and device compatibility, embedding video hosted on YouTube was considered the best option for the new website. Whether you are viewing the website on a desktop device, tablet or mobile, YouTube video support is almost ubiquitous. YouTube have also worked hard on accessibility and captioning features with the option to add captioning scripts or even employ automatic captioning. Having The Deaf Society of NSW’s extensive library of Auslan resources housed on YouTube also opens up a whole new channel of delivery to the deaf community.

Video Presentation

The extensive nature of video available from The Deaf Society of NSW provided our next challenge in terms of how to organise and present the information on the new website. After careful consideration we decided to aggregate related videos into galleries.

Making related videos available in grouped galleries simplified the content dramatically and reduced the amount of navigation and effort required to access the content. A video gallery forms the main part of the homepage explaining the main website features and navigation.

From the clients’ perpspective, adding video is as simple as copying and pasting the YouTube URL into the relevant custom field for the article they are editing. The system does the rest of the heavy lifting. Where a single video is entered, the full frame is used sans navigation, automatically switching to a gallery form with navigation where multiple videos are provided.

English-language content

The next problem was how to group and present the accompanying English text content.

Where pages contained only one video and article the English-language content simply follows the Auslan video.

Where multiple videos have been grouped into a gallery we employed a jQuery UI accordion to group the English-language text together. Users can scan the article titles and simply click or tap to read the full resource.

Responsive Design and Specialised Access Features

The Deaf Society’s own user research revealed that both iPhone and iPad are in strong use amongst their members. In order to streamline the presentation for those users, a responsive design method was employed to optimise the website layout and styling for those devices.

California based Simon Foust worked closely with Propeller on the responsive layout and styling aspects whilst UK-based Joel Bradbury developed a custom ExpressionEngine add-on which provides the ability to switch between mobile, tablet and desktop presentations so that those viewing the site via a tablet or phone can switch back to the desktop presentation if they prefer it.

This stylesheet-switching facility was also employed to provide a high-contrast presentation. In order to meet the specific needs of certain disability groups within The Deaf Society’s user base, the high-contrast presentation also disables video and most images. Links to YouTube-hosted videos are provided instead.


The Deaf Society of NSW website is one of the largest projects Propeller have undertaken. In addition to in-house resources contributors from the US and UK also assisted with the project.

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