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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media


Teaching Accessibility: How a New Initiative is Proving Inspirational for Professionals to Focus on ICTs in Education

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Teaching Accessibility, an initiative founded by American industry, academic, institutions, and non-profit organizations aims to make knowledge in higher education accessible to students with disabilities.

Efforts at sensitizing businesses to adopt accessibility in their products and services must begin in the post-secondary educational enviroment.

Image: Efforts at sensitizing businesses to adopt accessibility in their products and services must begin in the post-secondary educational enviroment.

As a digital accessibility trainer in my earlier professional avatar, I used to refer to the W3C standards as the lost chapter on HTML. This was back in the days of the W3C 1.0 standards, long before the recognition of accessibility standards or what the practice in general sees today. Back then it was possible to become a web programmer, a web master or web developer and never hear of or need to understand the requirements for adopting digital accessibility.

It’s been close to two decades now, and the study of accessibility, both in a digital sense and otherwise, has yet to establish itself firmly within university curriculum. While we can say accessibility can no longer be seen as an afterthought and that it has become a part of standard business process, we must first work to ensure that businesses are actually aware of how to do that. That effort must begin by educating students – future techies, accessibility professionals, coders, businesspersons and entrepreneurs of tomorrow – right from the post-secondary level.

I particularly find resonance with the Teaching Accessibility introductory note that says, "All technology companies that have worked on accessibility have faced a similar challenge of preparing designers, engineers and researchers to think and build inclusively. Similarly, academic programs in design, engineering and HCI are seeking ways to better prepare students to address the needs of diverse populations. Given this shared challenge, industry, academia and advocacy have now come together to create models for teaching and training students of technology to create accessible experiences."
Efforts such as this will work to establish accessibility as part of the mainstream in a post-secondary environment. However, such a process will take time and be limited to an understanding of accessibility only within a digital sense. Information and Communications Technologies, the Internet of Things, media, and so many other aspects of the practice will also require an established educational base. Decades old digital accessibility standards within the context of the W3C can be built upon, but as newer technologies continue to arise, we will need new international standards and processes to establish an inclusive education system.  

At Accessible Media Inc. (AMI), our primary focus is the proliferation of accessible media and one of the means by which we accomplish that is through the standardization policies and practices with respect to description. We are uniquely positioned to lead working groups in both Canada (with the CRTC) and the United States (with the FCC Disability Advisory Committee). Not only that, we also work with organizations worldwide with similar intents.  Additionally, in an effort to pass along the knowledge gained from this work, we are engaged with the IAAP to develop an understanding of the current state of practice of description.  

Education is key to understanding accessibility, and in time the work to establish that system will ensure its ongoing viability. 


Related Resources

Blog: Making the Business Case for Hiring Persons with Disabilities | Read Debra Ruh's Aritcle.

Publication: Accessibility in Transition: From Remediation to Born Accessible in Post-Secondary Education | Download PDF.