Print this page


Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media

03/26/2015

Stop Ableism: Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Tell a Friend

In order for persons with disabilities to have equal access to participate in society, it's high time we re-engineer our attitudes about what constitutes abilities, writes Robert Pearson. 

What is the definition of Ableism?

If you haven't done so recently, I recommend visiting Twitter or Googling the following hashtag: #StopAbleism2015.

In the beginning of 2014, I had presented the hypothesis that we were entering a Golden Age of Accessibility. It appeared that we would see advancements within the industry in the coming year unlike any that had come before it. That did happen to an extent, but at a pace far less than I had originally projected.

Here, at the beginning of 2015, as I scroll back through the stream of tweets that have appended this hashtag #StopAbleism2015, those signs of revolution might be on the horizon. The chorus of voices propose that we all stand up and challenge the philosophies that have brought us to this day, because it simply isn't appropriate to be compliant to the outdated notions of bias and discrimination anymore.

Rather than an industry focusing upon a continued provision of "good" to the community that it serves, the community itself has begun to deliver the point that "good" is what they are entitled to and that "good" is what they shall be served.

There have been signs that this has been coming, I touch upon the origins of some of them in my recent post about Predictions for Media Accessibility in 2015. Yet the discourse that is underway sees a much deeper rooted issue that requires focus; that of discrimination or social prejudice against persons with disabilities. Old and outdated philosophies, but also current initiatives, are simply not cognizant to practical, modern day attitudes that lie at the core of this issue.  

  • Taking it from a business standpoint, it is an understanding that both consumers and employees that may be persons with disabilities are simply consumers and employees. They are not exceptions to the standard way in which business is conducted. 
  • Taking it from a social standpoint, it is an understanding that everyone is the same regardless of their origin or appearance and thus everyone should be treated equitably. An individual's abilities do not define who that individual is.
  • Taking it from a support standpoint, it is an understanding that services provided to persons with differing abilities should be based upon an understanding of need. This will allow for the development of trust in those services and in turn they will allow for increased independence, advocacy and health.
  • Taking it from a media standpoint, it is an understanding that universal accessibility in this regard is something that will likely be achieved some day.

In the meantime though, it is a further understanding that business need and function must be tempered with community need in order to find an equitable solution. Beyond that it also delves into areas of positive portrayal and recognition that the community of persons with disabilities will only continue to grow and as they do, their interests will increasingly be seen as the norm itself.

With the mandate that we've been given at Accessible Media Inc. (AMI), our role is one of promoting these understandings. We do this through our employee base, in interacting with the consumers of our services and in the Original Programming that we create. The provision of accessibility is something that we've been inherently tasked with to provide and we take that role very seriously with consideration of it in all of our business practices both internal and external. Part of my role as an Accessibility Officer is to further develop that role by assisting other organizations in their understanding of accessibility, not only so that they may interact with our organization on an equitable basis, but also to further propagate the ideal that accessibility is the process and not an exception to it.

We'd be interested to hear from anyone who may be reading this about the challenges you or your organization has faced when it comes to accessibility, whether they be of an origin within ableism or whether we can assist with an increased understanding of what audio description is and how it may benefit not only a blind and partially sighted audience, but also a greater universal one.

To that end, I invite you to review our new Public Service Announcement related to that promotion of description, entitled Rainforest. It was recently launched across all Canadian networks with the support that we have received for this initiative from our broadcaster partners at the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB).

In the meantime, we will keep an eye on the tweet stream related to this topic. We all have an interest in seeing more good in the industry and whether that comes through process evolution or revolution, it will always help to understand each other and where the other may be coming from.

***********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Related Resources

Blog: Thankful for the 25th Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act | Read Debra Ruh's Article.

Publication: The ICT Opportunity for a Disability-Inclusive Development Framework | Download PDF.