THE Salvation Army's international website www.salvationarmy.org was recognised for excellence in three categories at this year's Christian New Media Awards. The site won the award for Accessibility, having been runner-up in the hotly-contested People's Choice category, and the Worldwide Prayer Meeting was shortlisted as a finalist in the Most Creative Use of Social Media category.
Accessibility in the context of the awards refers to ease of navigation and consideration for visitors utilising assistive technology (such as text-to-speech software) to browse web content. Judge Dr Mike Townsend, technology consultant and trustee for Torch Trust for the Blind and the Royal National Institute for Blind People, lost his sight at the age of eight. Addressing the hundreds of new media practitioners at the awards dinner held in the central London venue The Brewery, he spoke warmly of The Salvation Army's commitment to accessible web design. Playing on the double meaning of the word site/sight he said: 'I speak often about web sight-loss. Many websites are simply not available to me. The Salvation Army, on the other hand, has a large and interesting site, which speaks of the valuable work it does. It has enabled accessibility from the outset – not retrofitted it. I thoroughly enjoyed "looking" around!'
Communications Secretary Major John Murray says: 'The Salvation Army is honoured to receive this special recognition and we congratulate all the organisations nominated. We believe in reaching people through web and social media platforms and the IHQ Communications team is committed to engaging with all who visit our sites.'
Website Manager David Giles explains: 'With a diverse audience in considerably more than the 126 countries The Salvation Army operates in, the site is designed and written to be available to all. We try to ensure that our online content is accessible to visitors for whom English is a foreign language, as well as those with additional needs. Our aim is that all visitors to salvationarmy.org would learn something of God's work through The Salvation Army, whether they are reading, hearing or feeling their way around the site.'
Measures taken to ensure that the website is accessible to all include the method of navigation around the site, provision of keyboard alternatives to usually mouse-driven processes, colour palette selection and text descriptions of photo and video content (particularly in the provision of live text summaries during webcasts).
The Worldwide Prayer Meeting (WWPM), which was recognised for its creative use of social media, is a weekly event that links online and offline prayers. Around the world, many Salvationists and friend join together between 5 and 8am every Thursday. Twitter, Facebook and the WWPM section of the General's website offer an opportunity to bring together the prayers of the world.
The Christian New Media Awards are staged by UK-based Premier Media, and received more than 900 entries across categories encompassing best practice in websites, blogs, use of social media and mobile app development.
www.salvationarmy.org is a collaboration of a webteam of members of the Communications Section and IT Department at International Headquarters. At the awards ceremony the partnership was represented by Communications Secretary Major John Murray, Website Manager David Giles and webteam member Kevin Sims.
Earlier in the day the webteam members attended the Christian New Media Awards Conference, which included sessions and talks about how the Church and church organisations can make the most of online tools and social media.
Report by the Communications Section
Photos: Jeremy Godlonton/Premier Media