Accessibility for

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Doctor’s offices, bars, laundromats, gyms, and other public establishments often have complimentary TVs, usually playing some combination of daily news and sports with the sound off, at very low volume, or drowned out by crowd noise. At the bottom of the screen, viewers will be familiar with two small bars of live text while the news and weather updates scroll across in large white letters. For many people, this is their first exposure to live captions. It’s important that they’re consistent and accurate. Later in this module, we’ll learn exactly why, how, and when those live captions are used – sometimes in unexpected places.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to live events became an important lifeline to the outside world, the performing arts, and our creative communities. In March 2020, movie theatres, concert halls, museums, art galleries, and performance venues closed almost overnight. And very quickly, everything seemed to migrate online, including museum tours, live concert performances, book readings, drag shows, conferences, and lectures. Movies set to release in 2021 were available in theatres and on streaming services simultaneously and many musicians and comedians streamed live shows from their living rooms (Salon, 2021).

The transition to Zoom, Discord, and other streaming services has offered something rare - a way for people to experience events in real time from the comfort of their own homes - and a form of equity, a welcome change from inaccessible venues and performances designed without accessibility in mind.

However, this move to digital platforms isn’t forever - nor is it a perfect accessibility solution – venues often lack ramps, seating, live captioning, interpreters, and support. It’s been repeated over and over throughout this course, but once you start noticing how easily things can be made accessible, you can’t stop.

The arts are known as a universal way to connect -- without words, through body language, sound, light, performance, and visual mediums. Discussion, debate, and connection can happen from these experiences. Multiple people can experience a performance, show or gallery exhibit and come away with entirely different interpretations. Those takeaways cannot be had, of course, if the experience in question was not equitable or accessible.

Image: Person holding up a cellphone at a concert.

Learning Outcomes

  • Evaluate initiatives to make live events more accessible to include diverse audiences.
  • Review the imperative for mindfulness of accessibility and inclusion in the creation, production and evolution of the arts, education, and performance.
  • Understand the role of live captioning in broadcast media for inclusion.
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Terms and Concepts

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