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Robert Pearson

Accessible Media


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12/01/2015

Accessibility of Media Content for Persons with Cognitive Disabilities


When it comes to meeting the telecommunications needs of persons with cognitive disabilities towards media and content access, a broad and versatile perspective must be taken, writes Robert Pearson.

  According to the website of the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, an estimated 28.5 million Americans, more than 9% of the U.S. population, had a cognitive disability in 2012

Image: According to the website of the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, an estimated 28.5 million Americans, more than 9% of the U.S. population, had a cognitive disability in 2012.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at the “Summit on the Telecommunications Needs of Persons with Cognitive Disabilities,” hosted by the Disability Advisory Committee of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, D.C. held on October 28, 2015. "From the FCC program introduction, “cognitive disabilities” is a term that refers to a broad range of conditions that include intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorders, severe, persistent mental illness, brain injury, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease and other dementias."

The FCC held this summit to facilitate discussion of the telecommunication needs of people with cognitive disabilities and effective means of meeting those needs. Panels included:

  • Communication Technologies for Independent Living
  • Emergency Preparedness/Living in the Community Safely
  • Ensuring and Funding Access to Equipment, Training and Broadband

Being on the closing panel for the day, my role was, in part, to summarize the conversations that had taken place prior. One point became obvious through the course of the discussion: the broad group that was defined within the umbrella term ‘cognitive disabilities’ have likely had specific accessibility accommodations needs that have historically gone underserved. While this includes everything from support services to broad social inclusion, it also includes access to common services and as well as access to media, leisure, entertainment and information.

As such, that was the focus of my discussion that day. Everyone, regardless of their abilities, has the right to access any form of media in the context that they chose. This begins with consistent tools, knowledge, training, and regulations. Outside the American context, I have been privy to and led similar discussions here in Canada and there’s much we can learn as neighbors. Previously, I have discussed how I lead a Video Description Working Group for the FCC that operates with a common mandate to its Canadian Described Video Working Group counterpart that I also lead. At the Telecommunications Summit, one of the themes pertaining to regulations focused on the importance of a common initiative focused on achieving common goals.

In the United States, the ADA has been in existence for 25 years. In Canada, we have no similar piece of legislation; however, our provincial jurisdictions have for the most part begun to develop legislation on this theme. In our role at Accessible Media Inc. (AMI), we are a national broadcaster serving primarily the media needs of those who are blind and partially sighted. Being present across the country, we have seen evidence of this in the discussions that we have led locally, from coast to coast as a strong call for national legislation in this regard. A grassroots organization, Barrier Free Canada, has taken up the initiative to lead the discussion in this regard.  

When it comes to meeting the telecommunications needs of persons with cognitive disabilities, or any type of abilities, a broad and versatile perspective must be taken. If you are an organization or State working toward tangible solutions for implementing accommodations for persons with cognitive disabilities, let me know about the accessibility solutions and framework in the comments below.

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Related Resources

Blog: Visual Emotional Learning and Inclusion | Read Robert Pearson's Article.

Publication: Promoting Global Digital Inclusion Through ICT Procurement and Accessibility Standards | Download White Paper.

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Related Items:

• Talking Tins

• MODEL DIGITAL ACCESSIBILITY POLICIES PRESENTED AT THE UNITED NATIONS

• Call for Participants: Cognitive Accessibility Task Force

• Press Release from Council of Canadians with Disabilities

• FCC Summit on Telecommunication Needs of People with Cognitive Disabilities, Washington, D.C., USA


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