Accessibility and the digital arts

Accessibility is the science of developing technologies and interfaces in such a way that users with limited abilities (visual, auditory or control impairments) can use tools and channels to achieve parity with those whose abilities are not. Web pages separate text from the interface and the design, so that screen readers can read out text to those who cannot read.  Assistive input devices like sip & puff devices and wands allow input without keyboards.

You would ask me, why go to such extremes of building assistive technology and capabilities into what is ultimately a short lived campaign? Our budgets and timelines would never allow for it.

As digital story tellers, in our search for the next great story, we think often of creating experiences which cross boundaries and fences. We want our ideas to touch people and create a moment where we make them receptive.

The tools and platforms available to us today make story telling an intriguing and exciting. Apart from known platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, just searching through a app stores brings in a swathe of tools like Interlude, Storehouse, Directr, and Replay.

These tools bring us amazing ways to create ideas and communications, consequently our campaign ideas and communication, become dependent on these mediums to truly communicate what we want to say. Our ideas reach the consumers on large screen desktops, laptops, tablets and phones of every screen size and platform imaginable. With the launch of 4G LTE networks across, consumers can be connected in real time – responsive, engaged, and some other buzzwords which we like to use.

But… In all this rather amazing world of storytelling, we do tend to forget one element – our digital customer base is growing.  Expanding to rural areas, previously unconnected areas. Areas where the second screen is the first screen, and data connections are spotty at best. Devices are restricted in their abilities and some apps just won’t work.

This is the accessibility problem we need to tackle. We need to address the elements which answer accessibility when we develop our communication strategies and campaigns.

We need to ensure that what we develop for a campaign, can be viewed easily at every size and dimension. Content which is created should be made available across formats, equipped for multiple bandwidths, and delivery channels.

When it comes to consumer engagement and information acquisition, use natural, non-time bound channels which don’t make the user jump through hoops. Provide multiple channels and modes to allow consumers to respond.

I don’t have an answer on how to solve all accessibility concerns, but I hope there is was enough food for thought in the piece above to get us all thinking about developing campaigns which truly have reach.

If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic.William Bernbach

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