Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought to creating media, but it so often is. Making accessible media is not only important, but also the difference between including and alienating your audience. In this first module, we will deepen our understanding of how disabled people are represented in the media, and how the language we use around disability affects and influences societal ideas and stereotypes.
We will learn about the different laws and regulations that enforce accessibility in institutions, public spaces and media that ensure disabled people have equal rights to access. Legislation is important, but it is not the only thing that needs to be made more inclusive – systematic barriers for disabled people exist at every level of public life, from federal laws on unfair hiring practices to the need for captions on TikTok. In this module we will also learn about universal and inclusive design, which benefits everyone and opens up the ways we can interact with the world around us. We will take a look at different ways of communication, through signs, symbols and speech. Most importantly, we will set our intentions to “design like we give a damn” (Leonie Watson, 2014).
Image: A green Stop Gap ramp outside a store entrance. Credit: Anne Zbitnew
- Analyze the principles of accessibility, inclusive design and universal design in order to acknowledge systemic barriers in media and in the world.
- Learn accessible ways of communication and why it’s important to understand their histories and day to day use.
- 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.
Terms and Concepts
Select the term or concept to learn more.
Accessibility is defined by the Ontario Human Rights Commission as a term for how easily devices, services, information and environments can be accessed by persons with disabilities. Accessibility implies very deliberate design and planning in order to make sure that there are no barriers that would exclude persons with disabilities from using something. Through prioritizing practicality and ease of use, accessibility benefits everyone (Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2013).
Disability is defined as part of being human, the interaction between individuals, health conditions and societal, medical and systematic barriers. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) over one billion people live with some form of disability. Almost everyone will experience disability in their lifetime, whether temporary or permanent. Disabilities can be visible or invisible, and both should be treated with equivalent respect (WHO, n.d.).
Universal Design is defined as the design and composition of environments that prioritize inclusivity, access, and understanding for all people, regardless of age, size, and mobility level. If diverse needs/abilities are taken into account in every part of the design process, everyone benefits. Universal Design is not an exception to the rule, but a fundamental part of good design. (National Disability Authority, 2020)