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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media


Generation: Paper

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Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) recently launched the Described Video (DV) TV Guide in Canada on the AMI website.  For reference, for those who may not be aware, Audio Description is known as Described Video in Canada. Robert Pearson writes.

The Guide is an aggregate list of DV programming available across multiple broadcast networks in the country, including all of the fully described program line-up available on AMI-TV. It was designed to serve the needs of those who require or enjoy described programming in an effort to allow them to plan their TV viewing time. Never before, in any jurisdiction, has there been a TV Guide of described programming implemented in this nature to serve the needs of this historically underserved audience.

The Guide was launched on June 1, 2012 on the AMI website and also through an associated 24-hour toll-free national bilingual call centre. From the initial design stage, the Guide was developed to provide these listings to users who may have online access and to those who do not by having them contact the call centre. It was decided that no other format would be required for these listings, specifically print, as users could easily print out the listings off the website.

However, shortly after launch AMI began to receive requests for printed copies of the listings. Unfortunately, due to the digital media nature of the Guide, it was not within the means of our not-for-profit organization to provide these listings in a format beyond that which could be printed from an accessible website. In reviewing the requests that were received in this regards though, an interesting trend began to appear. 

Audio Description is known as Described Video in Canada 

Video description is audio-narrated descriptions of a television program's key visual elements 

Individuals, seemingly of a similar generation, were associating the idea of a TV Guide with text on a piece of paper and something tangible that they could hold.  There appeared to be a general misunderstanding as to why the service was being offered only in intangible formats, speaking to the intent of providing these listings as an accessibility accommodation.

Could it be that despite the best the intentions of providing these listings in an accessible format, to provide increased inclusion for those requiring the product of these listings, that in fact providing them through only these two mediums works towards making them inaccessible for some?

Perhaps the use of paper, text on a page, writing with a pencil or pen, or even holding a hard or soft book are non-digital activities that are the most accessible options for consuming media content for a specific generation.  If that is the case then providing multiple content formats may be the solution.

Certainly, being of an age where I remember a pre-Internet world of postal mail and text books that you would purchase at the book store, I can appreciate the idea of sitting down with a newspaper or a good book.  However, generally, as we look towards ensuring that we develop strategies for ensuring the accessibility of rapidly evolving digital content, it may be important to also ensure that a regressive perspective is considered to ensure that inclusion is achieved across a spectrum of accommodations. 

Robert Pearson is an information technology professional who has been functioning, influencing, and engaging in the accessibility industry since 1999. As a Director with Accessible Media Inc (AMI), Robert is in a position to advocate, support and promote the community from which he came. Robert regularly speaks about his experiences within the industry and some of the personal challenges he has faced with his own unique disability.  


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