Have you had life changing events in which you thought you might not be able to participate in activities you once enjoyed? Maybe you know of others who have had life altering events which as a result these people feel they now have barriers that prevent them from enjoying all of life’s opportunities.
After I awoke from a coma which lasted three months I realized all I could see was complete darkness. Shortly thereafter my ophthalmologist came into the hospital and verified I had lost all vision and was now completely blind. This life altering event occurred suddenly without warning one uneventful evening. From that point in 1999 my life changed forever.
One of many thoughts that raced through my mind just after being told I would most likely never be able to see anything ever again was how I would participate in activities I used to do which might require eyesight. Since being blind was new to me I was not yet aware of how I would be able to participate in many of life’s joyful opportunities.
After attending meetings at local blindness related organizations and completing extensive training in blindness related skills and assistive technologies, I became aware that with the advancements in technology I would have options to participate in many of the activities I had previously enjoyed. This new education along with my past experience in software development, system administration and computer networking I learned that with the technology available today, full inclusion of all people can be a reality. All that is required to facilitate inclusion, regardless of disability or age related challenges, is the incorporation of accessibility into products.
One of many examples of incorporating accessibility into products is how the AMC Theaters in my area leverage accessibility. With the technology used at my local theater I was able to enjoy the movie experience with the aid of descriptive audio. With this technology I could fully see what was on the screen in my minds-eye as the second audio track described the images on the screen. This audio description track played through wireless headphones that were provided by the theater. The audio description that was playing in my headset flowed seamlessly with the primary audio track everyone else was listening to. The audio description never seemed to overlap with the voices that were in the movie. This allowed me to listen to both sound tracks with ease. The added description immensely enhanced my movie experience. I could now tell what was being displayed in the movie such as action, scenery or other non-verbal content which is essential to understanding the complete meaning.
My friend who I attended the movie with is deaf/hard of hearing and he leveraged the closed captioning devices that were provided by the theater. He was very impressed with the technology used to increase his movie experience. He was able to read the verbal words spoken as they scrolled across the small display. The words that scrolled across the display were perfectly timed with the movie. The small display for closed captioning rested on a small flexible stand that is placed in the cup holder in the arm rest of the seat. This device was easily adjustable to allow for easy viewing of the display while not obstructing the movie screen.
Additional technologies/recreational activities that can take advantage of closed captioning and audio description are:
• On-Line Videos
• Training Classes/Courses
• Desktop Sharing Software
• Conferences - Both Online and Face-to-Face
• Television Programming
• DVD Movies
• Plays, Concerts and Operas
• Museums, Theme Parks and Hiking Trails
The movie experience I described is just one example of how products can leverage accessibility to produce superior products. The incorporation of accessibility will also broaden the number of people who can use the products therefore creating the potential for additional revenue for the developer/provider. Also if the product is used in a business environment there is potential cost savings due to the fact the affected employee will not need another person to help them overcome the accessibility/usability barriers. Plus, best of all, more people who thought they had no hope of ever participating in activities they once enjoyed because of barriers can now participate in life’s experiences and contribute to their full potential.
Do you have any examples of how accessibility has opened up opportunities or made a difference in your life? Can you provide any tips to developers about the benefits of incorporating usability and accessibility into products? Any other thoughts you would like to share on this topic?
We all look forward to hearing your valuable comments.
Global Dialogue Center