Using a digital participatory approach to facilitate inclusivity in Jordanian heritage sites: Stakeholders’ requirements and a proposed system

Aseel Aljaafreh, Vanja Garaj, Youngok Choi


This paper explores the barriers and factors affecting inclusivity in historical sites, focusing on the “Accessible Tourism” national project in Jordan. The paper discusses the importance of inclusive design in built heritage and the positive outcomes it can promote, such as social cohesion, cultural understanding, equal opportunities, empowerment, representation, and economic benefits.

The use of digital technologies in cultural heritage projects is highlighted as a significant development, revolutionizing the way people experience and interact with the past. Various applications of digital technologies, including 3D photogrammetry, immersive techniques, virtual reality, and big data analytics, are discussed in the context of architectural and urban environments, archaeological sites, building and site monitoring, mapping, and model making.

The paper emphasizes the need for collaborative methodologies and the integration of digital technologies in preserving and promoting cultural heritage. It discusses how digital technologies facilitate digital preservation, interactive display functionalities, virtual restoration and reconstruction methods, and community involvement. Additionally, the paper explores the role of participatory design approaches in enhancing audience engagement and fostering conversations with visitors, as well as the use of technology solutions like Linked Data, crowdsourcing, exergaming, wikis, and virtual reality in community-led cultural heritage initiatives.

The research methodology employed in the paper involves interviews with 23 participants involved in the “Accessible Tourism” project. These participants include accessibility consultants, architects, planners, project managers, legal affairs actors, and heritage site staff. The interviews focused on understanding the challenges and requirements faced by these stakeholders in designing and planning inclusive and accessible tourism. The data collected from the interviews were synthesized, coded, and analysed using NVivo software.

The findings and discussion section of the paper consists of two parts: Session 1 focuses on understanding user design and planning challenges, while Session 2 discusses participants’ views on using digital technologies in the design and development process.

Session 1 highlights the common challenges faced in facilitating accessibility and inclusivity at cultural and historical sites. Effective interdepartmental communication is crucial to ensure a shared understanding of goals and requirements. Historic preservation constraints and comprehension of accessibility codes pose challenges. Additionally, difficulties in engaging users with disabilities or from marginalized communities and limited user research hinder the development of inclusive facilities.

To address these challenges, the paper suggests allocating adequate time and resources for user research and engagement. Inclusivity can be enhanced by involving end-users from the early stages of the project, conducting focus groups, interviews, surveys, and usability testing, and prioritizing effective communication methods.

Session 1 also identifies role-specific challenges for legal affairs actors, architects, planners, heritage site staff, project managers, and accessibility consultants. These challenges include navigating complex legal frameworks, finding architectural solutions that preserve historical value, balancing competing objectives for planners, training heritage staff members, and lacking comprehensive guidelines for project managers and accessibility consultants.

Session 2 discusses participants’ perspectives on using digital technologies in the design and development process. The benefits of digital tools include enhanced design visualization, improved remote communication and collaboration, cost and time efficiency, accessible design testing, and preservation of historical integrity. However, there are also concerns raised about integrating technology with historical preservation regulations, technological barriers, learning curves, and the digital divide.

The paper concludes by proposing an initial system design diagram to address the challenges discussed. It emphasizes the importance of a user-centred approach, comprehensive user research, and user engagement in achieving true accessibility and inclusivity in historical sites. It integrates 3D capturing technology with interactive crowdsourcing platforms with a particular emphasis on engaging the local community.

In conclusion, this research paper provides insights into the barriers and factors affecting inclusivity in historical sites, focusing on the “Accessible Tourism” national project in Jordan. It highlights the role of digital technologies in cultural heritage projects and the importance of collaborative and participatory design approaches. The findings contribute to the understanding of the challenges and requirements in implementing inclusive design principles in built heritage sites.

Keywords: immersive technology, community engagement, inclusive design, built heritage sites, participatory approach