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2015 Predictions for Media Accessibility in Canada
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Two major initiatives, along with several other minor ones, will become a focus of media accessibility development in Canada in 2015.
Image: Accessibility is not different from the norm, it needs to be considered as the norm.
The Broadcast Accessibility Fund
The Broadcasting Accessibility Fund Inc. (the Fund) is an independent and impartial funding body supporting innovative projects that provide solutions to promote the accessibility of all broadcasting content in Canada. The Fund will support projects that provide practical solutions to increase accessibility to broadcasting content and that, whenever possible, make use of inclusive design principles to promote accessibility at the earliest stages and in the most cost-effective manner for new technologies and applications in Canada.
The Fund will be in a position to dramatically drive forward innovation across the country in the area of media accessibility. Being a product of industry vertical integration, the Fund will launch solutions to address accessibility in broadcasting well beyond that of the mandate given to Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) to the benefit of all persons with disabilities and anyone requiring inclusive design. Funding proposals will be accepted early in the new year.
An Accessible Set-Top Box
This has for sometime been noted as a deficiency in the North American broadcasting environment with the notable exception of the highly accessible Comcast box. Certainly, within Canada, we have nothing similar, however, the desire to have one is certainly there. Features such as voice recognition, voice navigation, change font sizes, and colors are currently unavailable in the equipment we have in place today. The Comcast box and other similar devices used globally should be studied and made available here.
Bringing Accessibility to the Mainstream Through Education
Speaking to the idea of process and perception, accessibility is not different from the norm, it needs to be considered as the norm. Processes need to adapt to the extent of where they consider accessibility not as an addition, but simply as the manner in which a process is conducted. This can be achieved through education. Changing the ways in which accessibility is perceived and how it is considered. While this has always been an issue, of decreasing proportion as time goes by, it has been proven that knowledge and comprehension can be increased through ongoing educational efforts. Refocusing on the value of this must continue.
Make it Free
Education becomes more desirable if no cost is involved. It can come through utilizing free technologies to understand their purpose and intent for the audience for which they've been created. We've seen it in partnerships between assistive technology providers and major software providers and it continues to take place. Make it free, if only for a time, and open the door to an increased understanding of accessibility and the need for it. In 2015, we will hopefully see more of this.
Redefine the Way in Which we Work
For many years audio description was done in only one manner; through post-production. A show was created and description was added to it after it was completed. As with all practices and technologies though, it continued to evolve and description started to be done by other means including the description of live events, theatre and more. At AMI we taken that on another tangent to develop a new form of description, embedded described video, whereby we work with a producer of a show to integrate description into the production itself so that no separate description track is required. In 2015, we will examine the validity and usability of this form of description as we work towards bringing it further into the mainstream.