Introduction to Accessible Design in Media
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When media isn’t accessible, it segregates persons with disabilities. In this first module, we will learn about ways we can design media to be more inclusive and accessible for everyone. This begins with understanding how persons with disabilities are represented in the media and what language we use when we talk about disability and persons with disabilities. We will deepen our understanding of language and how it both reflects and influences attitudes towards disability and study examples of both positive and negative representations of disability in media.

In Ontario and around the world, there are laws and regulations that try to encourage and enforce accessibility in many different aspects of public life so that persons with disabilities have the same human rights to access as non-disabled persons. Legislation and public policy can help to raise awareness about accessibility and ensure that basic access is implemented, but the law isn’t the only reason to make our world more inclusive. It’s also the right thing to do (Chung, Hyun-D. & Salah, H.,2013). It gives people with disabilities equal rights, encourages an inclusive society and it benefits everyone to have accessible design features built in to the media they interact with. For some people, disability is a permanent part of their experience; for others, it is temporary; and for many, it’s in the near future as the population ages.

We can all benefit from universal and inclusive design. So, let’s get a sense of the landscape here in Module 1 and set our intentions to “design like we give a damn,” in the words of Léonie Watson, an accessibility engineer, writer and public speaker.

Image: View from the bottom of three tall telecommunication towers with antennas.

Learning Outcomes

  • Analyze the principles of accessibility, inclusive design and universal design in order to acknowledge systemic barriers in media and in the world at large.
  • Assess representations of disability in order to apply a critical lens to media in Canada and around the world.
  • Evaluate the principles of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in order to understand the legislative standards to date in Ontario and the United States.
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Important Terms and Concepts

  • Disability
  • Accessibility
  • Universal Design and Inclusive Design
  • Broadcast Media
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Connect to Practice

Apply the various media models of disability to current broadcast media as citizens, media makers, and change agents.