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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media

05/20/2014

Push Button Accessibility

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Persons with Disabilities can have easy access to media if there is consistency in the technologies available to distributors regardless of their location, writes Robert Pearson.

 Universal access will only be achieved if universal resources designed to serve the widest possible audience are made available to all
Image: Universal access will only be achieved if universal resources designed to serve the widest possible audience are made available to all.
 
The other day I was walking out of a restaurant with my two-year old daughter. As we walked through the first set of two double doors into the vestibule, she ran across to the button that you can press to have the doors open automatically for you. Being situated on the wall at a low height and designed for persons with mobility impairments, a two-year old is just tall enough to press the button and open the door. Pleased with herself for having cleared the way for us to leave, I thought how amazing it is what kids pick up. As someone with a mobility impairment in my left hand, my daughter would have often seen her father utilize such a button to open doors or get access to something.

What is push button accessibility?
There is a major office supplies chain in North America that uses the idea of an "easy button" in their promotional material. One press and the job’s done. It's almost like magic! The discipline of web accessibility has seen its fair share of magic solutions throughout its evolution. Everything from fly-by-night consultants and organizations claiming that they can make your site accessible with one click, to effective code overlays that can actually accomplish the task. Not only that, but also assistive technology solutions offering access to meet your abilities based upon what you are hoping to achieve. Realistically though, it's widely understood that to achieve inclusion it requires work. Not a one-off solution, but rather ongoing efforts to deliver comprehensive accessibility to users of all abilities. The idea of what encompasses "a11y" though is positioned well to drive the creation of an "easy button" through the innovations achieved thus far.

For many years there's been a call for an "easy button" to assist with media accessibility. Specifically that which could turn audio description on and off with the press of a button on your television remote. The technology exists to permit this and it has been implemented by some cable distributors such as Comcast in the United States. In Canada though, no distributors have undertaken the implementation of an equivalent solution and it is unclear as to why. It is likely that the market does not exist on a similar scale as to that of our neighbours, which is much to the frustration of Canadian consumers who could benefit from this type of solution.
 
I hope that my daughter encounters more than one "easy button" throughout hers, similar to the button on the wall in the restaurant that may provide an accessible solution to her and to all who may utilize it.

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Related Resources

Blog: Customizing Accessibility in the Digital Age | Read Robert Pearson's Article.

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

Event: ETSI Workshop on the Human Side of Technology: Human Factors in ICT | June 2-3, 2014, France | View Event Details.