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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media


My Wish List for Media Accessibility in 2014

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As accessibility experts and users of all abilities welcome 2014, Robert Pearson takes us through his wishlist on media accessibility for this year and ahead.
media players need to have more options for accessible viewing experience

Image: Media players need to have accessible options for viewers and provide video, audio, description, and captioning segments in combinations.

1. A fully accessible media player

“If you build it, they will come”

Not just a player that can provide video, audio, description, and captioning in sequence, regardless of bandwidth or device it's being consumed on, but also a player that is structurally accessible. It provides the user the ability to turn these four components on and off, perhaps even signing in as well through its interface and also validates with full compliancy to W3C 2.0 Level 2.0 AA standards.

It's been done. Those in the UK who enjoy using the domestic version of the iPlayer are seeing the benefit of it. However, it's only been done to a certain extent in a commercial or even in an open source sense elsewhere and not for broadcasting anywhere else.

With digital transitions for broadcasting underway, now’s the time for this mandate to move forward. TV is available through several outlets than a standard broadcast and the technology to provide it on these platforms must evolve to ensure that the accessibility enhancements already gained in broadcasting are not lost as the transition continues. (You might be interested in checking out the G3ict - AMI publication, Making Television Accessible: The Canadian Experience).

2. More Options

“Show me the money”

Give me more description on TV, in movies, in theatrical presentations, in every sense. This is a common statement heard during advocacy efforts. Why is there not enough description, isn't this the Golden Age of Accessibility? The reality is that the need must be carefully weighed with business and financial constraints. Numbers will continue to increase, as business processes are streamlined and protocols such as the Described Video (Audio Description) Best Practices come into enforcement.

3. Captioning has been the same for many years.

“What we've got here is a failure to communicate.”

Simple text, on a simple background, unable to convey tone, emotion or context. There has been much research done to provide insight into what could be accomplished to address this. For instance, show an icon of a telephone, when a phone is ringing, change the color of text to denote emotion and show an icon to denote a change of scene or context.

Advocacy efforts show that those utilizing standard captioning are being under served. It becomes a case of determining how emotionally accessible your media may be. It may be said that captioning is more standardized than description due to its longevity. However, if description is to see the benefits of enhancements with renewed focus, then perhaps captioning should also gain the benefit of similar considerations.
Advocacy efforts show that those utilizing standard captioning are being under served

Image: Advocacy efforts show that those utilizing standard captioning are being under served.

4. Live audio description.

"Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

Describing major live events such as the Olympics, an election, a SuperBowl, but also reality and talk shows and other broadcasts that are live.

Post-production description has been around for some time. However, the area of live description is only in its infancy. AMI first began with live description during our broadcast of the 2011 Royal Wedding. It was the first time in history that a royal event had been described to be accessible by a partially sighted audience. Recently we have begun to describe Major League Baseball games. The audience reaction has been one of a great interest, because the description of the game is offering far more insight into what is taking place over a standard radio broadcast of the same event.

However, as the practice evolves there is an evident need to develop similar best practices to programs that were developed for post production. Many aspects of post-production description are relevant in a live sense, but there is more to consider from a technical aspect and even from an administration standpoint. Continuing the work of the CRTC and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters already begun, AMI will be focusing on the development of Live Audio Description best practices for the Canadian broadcasting industry with an intended completion date of June 2014.

5. More jurisdictions recognize the need for accessible media.

"May the force be with you."

In Canada, Accessible Media Inc. operates under the benefit of a very supportive regulatory environment that ensures the provision of accessible media in broadcasting to all Canadians. The UK provides it and to an extent other countries including the U.S., Australia, as well as others. However, the appetite is there in many other regions for the same provision to take place.

As can be seen with our recent work in providing insight into the development of audio description in South Africa, the need will always be the same wherever you go. There are audiences everywhere who have the need to consume accessible media. As was seen at the High Level Meeting on Disability and Development at the United Nations in September 2013, the disability agenda is coming to the forefront. Let’s take the effort to address these requirements.

You can gain insight into the activities of Accessible Media Inc by reviewing the G3ict White Paper that details our unique business model and how it may be applicable in other jurisdictions.


Related Resources

Blog: Assistive Technology Works Wonders for Simplifying the Lives of Persons with Disabilities | Read Blog by Techshare India.

Publication: CRPD 2013 ICT Accessibility Progress Report | Download PDF.

Event: G3ict Presents at Zero Project Conference on Accessibility | Vienna, Austra, February 27-28, 2014 | View Event Details.