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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media


Complementing Accessibility Advocacy with Business and Technology

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Do we need a new model approach to the discipline of accessibility, asks Robert Pearson.


Image: "abil" makes it easier for schools to connect with public speakers. Image courtesy:

In its current form and for the last few decades, the approach to the proliferation of accessibility has been to focus our strategies on meeting the needs of persons with disabilities from an advocacy perspective with technology and a good intent. It began with recognition of the concern and the issue of a lack of inclusion. Technology evolved to address these needs. Regulations were established, businesses and individuals took guidance from them in order to show their recognition of the gap. However, while we've become entrenched in the first golden age of accessibility, much still needs to be accomplished.

Consistency, standardization, and enforcement continue to require attention. Even though accessibility sits well positioned to enter the mainstream, a few final steps need to be taken. A driver is needed – a common tool of practice in order to jumpstart the discipline into its next golden age and drive further innovation. We need to look at accessibility from a business perspective.

Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) was recently the exclusive media partner for the HACK-ccessibility event hosted by Ryerson University in Toronto. I also had the opportunity to sit as a judge at the event, evaluating business pitches made by teams of primarily students from local universities. Like a scene out of Shark Tank, teams had the opportunity to pitch their business ideas for ten minutes to the judges in an effort to mainstream accessibility. Nine pitches in total took this new perspective on the local regulations of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Pitches ranged from ideas for new apps, accessibility obstacle notifications, wayfinding tools and post-secondary accessibility accommodation strategies.

The winner was a group named "ABIL" (a billion persons with disabilities worldwide). They will be launching a disability speaker portal at the secondary school level that will represent persons with disabilities who are accomplished speakers, who will be engaged to speak at schools on topics other than their own disabilities. A positive portrayal showing that persons of all abilities can accomplish anything that they put their mind too.

Could it be that something so simple could be an example of how to monetize the practice to the benefit of rapid innovation? It's in the differentiation. Business comes to the realization that to be accessible, to adopt universal design and to be cognizant of the needs of their entire audience is to the benefit of their bottom line. This was highlighted at the event that day. There was an energy in the delivery of the pitches and long discussion afterwards that indicated focus on this approach is necessary in the future. While we see accessible technology, regulations, advocacy initiatives, and strategies to achieve them, along with consistency through certification, we must also focus on the business of accessibility because that’s what will offer support to drive initiatives in all other areas.


Related Resources

Blog: Establishing a Professional Benchmark with Accessibility Certification | Read Robert Pearson's Article.

Publication: CRPD Implementation: Promoting Global Digital Inclusion through ICT Procurement and Accessibility Standards | View Report.