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Robert Pearson

Accessible Media

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Have We Entered the Golden Age of Accessibility?

Golden Age of Accessibility

From a need-based accommodation age, we have now entered the Golden Age of Inclusion and Accessibility for Users of All Abilities, says Robert Pearson.

Mythology defines a Golden Age as a time of peace, harmony, prosperity and stability. Some view it as cyclical, with each age broken by advancing ages of development, until the time another cycle begins. During a Golden Age, those who enjoy it no longer have to strive to achieve what they have been working tirelessly to accomplish; it is simply provided for them in abundance.

The world’s population continues to age and the need to provide access to the widest possible audience continues to be felt throughout industries, jurisdictions, cultures, and age groups. Recognition at the highest levels - from the United Nations through the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Millennium Development Goals - and access to ICTs in all forms, has become a topic of focus rather than one for consideration at a later point.

Persons with disabilities and anyone requiring an accessibility accommodation are in a position to be vocal about their needs and have their concerns viewed as legitimate as the policies to establish their rights continue to be formalized. This has clearly become the trend in recent years, spawning a new understanding of what can be realistically achieved.

Does this imply that we have moved away from the ‘prehistoric’ times of ‘need based accommodation’ into a Golden Age of Inclusion and Universal Access? It would seem that 2014 may be a time when this implication begins to hold more weight. Certainly, there is more that can come and will come as this Golden Age progresses, but for the time being we can recognize what has been achieved, learn from it and utilize it to drive the development agenda ever forward. To that end, this is a time for introspection and shared learning.

At Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) in Canada we have the benefit of conducting our work based upon a mandate set forward in the Canadian Broadcasting Act in 2009 that states that: “…programming accessible by disabled persons should be provided within the Canadian broadcasting system as resources become available for the purpose." We utilize that direction to provide services through AMI-tv and AMI-audio, and coming in 2015, AMI-tv French, a fully French, fully described and captioned mainstream television station.

Through this work we have had the opportunity to engage with established and burgeoning practices related to media accessibility around the world. In the spirit of reflection on the work that has been achieved and how the experience of one industry and the support it receives may be of benefit to the development of another, we plan to discuss these new practices for media accessibility in an upcoming series of blogs published by G3ict.

If a Golden Age of Access has indeed begun, the collective experience of the industry will play a role in the professional development of those just beginning in the field. This will be accomplished not only through professional associations and certifications, but also through support for grassroots initiatives on media, including social media. This would be a continuation of what has occurred in recent years as we turn the corner from our prehistoric times and step towards our first Golden Age.


Related Resources

Blog: Centralization of Digital Accessibility Knowledge | Read Robert Pearson's Article.

Publication: CRPD 2013 ICT Accessibility Progress Report | View Report

Event: ATIA 2014 Orlando | January 29-February 1, Orlando, Florida, USA | Event Details.


Related Items:

• GameON


• Accessibility Online: A Neglected Frontier for People with Disabilities

• Nominations Open for U.S. FCC Chairman’s Award for Advancement in Accessibility (AAA)

• UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Address

• Accessibility Summit 2014: Web and Mobile Accessibility, Online Event

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stephen dolle
I cannot agree with the author, Robert Pearson, as to this being a Golden Age on accessibility. It's more about whatever group is most politically successful. And in the case of those of us with brain/ cognitive disabilities (my 1992 brain injury w/ 12x CNS shunt revisions), there's been few accommodations, esp. in the adult world. As life & business becomes more competitive, I anticipate those with cognitive disabilities will fill up the bottom rung. Already, I estimate there are more persons with cognitive disabilities than all other disabilities combined. You don't hear about data on this sector because many are aging seniors and those who grew up with learning disabilities, or suffered a tumor or brain injury, and they fell out of the system. In hydrocephalus & CNS shunts, there are thought to be over 1M people in the U.S. The irony in tech & accessibility is that at its core, technology is the ultimate "assistive technology," but industry's mantra has been for the user to figure it out. My philosophy is that this presents a unique opportunity to understand how people with lower IQ think, that can lead to better UIs for all users. Today, there are very few UIs that users brag about. Sites & apps are all about features, there's little on usability! With tech, accessing the web site or app should not be the end goal. Rather, it should be how the site or app impacts the quality of life, independence, and productivity of the user.
09:15 PM, 02/21/2014

Lynne Tamor
I agree that the issue of demand is critical, also from the user perspective. In order to have demand, people have to know what is or might be possible, have access to needed training, hardware, connection, and so forth. As long as the focus is all on technical product development, at the expense of a focus on user snd potential user, there will be no Golden Age.
06:06 PM, 01/06/2014

Jim Tobias
I think we are definitely in a Golden Age regarding the *supply* of accessible technology. I'm less sure of the *demand* (not the need, which is very high, of course). There are a lot of products out there with the accessibility features turned off. There are a lot of consumers who don't know how to identify the features they need in the products they're searching for in a confusingly profuse market. There are even a lot of public sector agencies who are required to purchase accessible products (e.g., Section 508) who manage not to succeed in either searching for or selecting accessible products that are already available to them. All of this could be quantified better than it is right now. There's a risk we are seeing the wonderful improvements in supply, are noticing the high-end consumers zooming forward into a newly inclusive world, but are missing a large majority of people with disabilities who are still not getting what they need.
03:14 PM, 01/06/2014

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