We Can Do Better than 2% Accessibility

As I return to full-time work today, I can't help but reflect on my learning adventures during the Summer 2016. Besides the Google Innovation Academy, that sparked this Create Accessibility Project, I attended and/or presented at 2 GAFE Summits, 1 CUE Rockstar Teacher Camp, Instructional Leadership Corps (ILC) Regional Conference, and the Google Geo Teacher Institute. Added up, that's roughly 15 days of professional learning with multiple sessions and speakers. Despite the variety of speakers, I encountered displayed captions once during the entire summer. 

To put this in perspective, I conservatively estimate that I saw at least 50 videos while attending these various conferences. If you do the math, that's 2% of the media encountered had captions displayed. The optimist in me thinks that perhaps this number would had been higher if I had chosen different sessions. The realist in me is shocked that the number is a high as 2%. After all, who tweets out the presence of captions during a session? I do because it was such a rare and welcome surprise. What's even more intriguing, is that this lone event occurred at the one non-technology focused conference I attended this summer.

Closed Captioning is a technology that provides access to media information but it's not just for those who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing. It benefits those whose primary language is not the same as the video. It also benefits everyone when audio quality is less than desirable or ambient noise is more than expected. I strongly believe that the dual inputs of seeing language while hearing it benefits everyone. Plus, it is inclusive of those in the room who have disabilities. One would think that presenters at educational technology-focused conferences would be most likely to possess both the knowledge and skill to display captions. My very unscientific experience over the last two months says the opposite.

It was the White House Tour posted yesterday as part of the #ADA26 campaign that got me to considering all of this. In this beautiful tour of the White House, Leah Katz-Hernandez, West Wing Receptionist, narrates the tour using American Sign Language. The video also has a voiceover track with captions as part of the video. Additionally, a full audio description will be made available later in the week so that those with visual impairments can fully access this tour as well. If you haven't seen the video yet or want to watch it again, it's available on YouTube. I also encourage you to check out the White House Instagram account using the hashtag #ADA26 as they celebrate the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act by sharing stories of various staffers with disabilities.

This video represents a conscious choice to make accessible content with persons with disabilities in mind during the creation process. That is my ultimate goal with this #CreateAccessibility project. When our classroom creators are creating and sharing accessible media online I hope that mindset will extend to considering accessibility at they create apps, products, services or ??? to build a more inclusive future for everyone. 

To reach this ultimate goal, I have some workflows that I am excited to try out in classrooms when the school year begins with the aim of designing and sharing best practices. I have also begun working on a coding project that might help streamline the captioning process within the Google environment.  I will also continue adding my voice to media accessibility within the educational space with the hope that my 2% experience this summer is replaced by more and more educators making conscious choices to create or, as a starting point, display accessible media.

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