Paul Schroeder

In early December, leaders from around the world gathered at the M-Enabling Summit held near Washington, DC to address access to mobile technologies for people with disabilities and seniors. The summit was sponsored by http://g3ict.com/. Check out the site in a couple days to find presentations and information.

I'd like to share a couple points I made during a panel on the implementation of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, (CVAA), the landmark access law enacted last year.

Access to Television

In July 2012, top television networks will begin providing access through video description for four hours of programming weekly. And, within a few years, TV equipment controls and program guides are supposed to be made accessible to people with vision loss. These were hard-fought requirements of the CVAA. Yet, I sense ambivalence toward television access among advocates in our community. There seems to be an "I don't need it" mentality about television.

For sure, access to TV is not the same as access to a job or education, but certainly we can advocate for both. After all, television programming drives our culture, provides information and is likely the most widely enjoyed source of entertainment.

While four hours of programming a week isn't much, it represents a start toward access to television. I hope it will lead to the near-ubiquitous access now enjoyed by people who are deaf through captions which are required for essentially all television programs. I'd be interested in your thoughts about access to TV.

Full Access

Another point I shared at the summit relates to a concern that consumers with disabilities not settle for too little accessibility in communications technology. It relates to a fallacy I've started calling "the joy of something." For example, representatives of the technology industry sometimes point out, consumers with vision loss favor using voice controls to dial numbers on their cell phones. Surely some do, just as some sighted people do, but mobile phones provide a vast amount information on their displays from text messages and even web sites, to contact lists and details about missed calls. So, for a consumer with vision loss who has little or no experience with an accessible cell phone, voice-controlled dialing might be considered a great gift. But this "joy of something" quickly evaporates when stacked up against all the features that are not made accessible through voice-control.

We must not settle for half-measures and inadequate access now that we've got a law in place like the CVAA, which requires comprehensive access to advanced communications technology. Say no to the "joy of something."

You can find more information about the CVAA at the Federal Communications Commission's website. Additionally, the January 2012 AccessWorld will carry an article explaining the new law.

Blog Topics