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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media


Multi-sensory Emotional Accessibility

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The next step in the evolution of making media accessible to persons with disabilities could include senses beyond sight and hearing, says Robert Pearson. 
Image: Could we have media that allows us to invoke our sense of smell and touch, asks Pearson
Image: Could we have media that allows us to invoke our sense of smell and touch, asks Pearson.
At Accessible Media Inc. (AMI), our mandate is to make all media accessible to all Canadians. We understand that within the realm of broadcasting, there are two primary techniques for achieving that: captioning and description. As such, we apply those techniques to the content that we provide to our audience.

Recently, AMI-audio profiled an organization in Toronto that derives an emotional response through the application of scent. While technically this is not possible in a broadcasting sense, it provokes a question as to what could come in the future as the Golden Age of Accessibility continues to evolve and go beyond where it exists at the moment.

What if we could take media and apply scent to it or even allow for a sense of touch to derive a tactile response? I have heard of it being accomplished before in some Hollywood movies. Movie-goers are confronted with a smell that drives their emotional response to what they are seeing on the screen. Numerous art installations have been created to offer attendees a tactile surface to interact with, so that they (art galleries) may further engage audience in the experience that the artist has designed for their visitors.

In broadcasting though, we have not yet arrived at innovative concepts that engage audiences on all levels. For now, we provide accessible broadcasting within the constraints of what technology will allow for and with what practices have been derived for the purpose. It would seem that in a time when we are wearing technology on our bodies, it’s obvious that accessible broadcasting techniques will also need to evolve.

This is one of the reasons why we have begun the process to develop a second set of Described Video Best Practices for the Canadian broadcasting industry, specifically for live description. Live is a reasonably new technique. Therefore, there is an opportunity to develop the industry best practices now in order to ensure that the ongoing and increasing delivery of it will be accomplished in a consistent format. Next, we will move to embedded description, a technique developed by AMI to facilitate our original programming describing itself. This process will continue with an examination of French and other multi-lingual techniques inline with the upcoming launch of AMI TV en Français in January 2015.

Perhaps in time as the technology also continues to evolve, we will need to consider developing best practices for applicable scents and tactile surfaces available through broadcasting. This will come as our connections to accessible digital media deepens and a more comprehensive and accessible emotional experience becomes possible.


Related Resouces

Blog: Making Our Encyclopedia Accessible in the Digital Age - Read Robert Pearson's Article.

Publication: Third Party Captioning and Copyright: G3ict Policy Paper - Download Free PDF.

Event: 8th European e-Accessibility Forum: User Driven e-Accessibility | March 31, Paris | View Event Details.