Accessibility in a Digital Age

As Rosenzweig and Cohen address (and we briefly touched on in class last week) – the issue of web accessibility is a complicated one.

Something for history websites (and creators of digital content in general) to consider is how legislation like the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010  (or new legislation regarding accessibility/federal funding) will come to impact the content you create and share online. Though this act isn’t expanded to image and video on websites (it largely extends protections surrounding television accessibility and access to internet services) we should consider how our content is shared/experienced by those that visit our sites.

Given the history in the US of disability accessibility law, it is fair to reasonably anticipate that as we begin to move from the physical to the digital greater emphasis will be placed on providing accessible media. If the struggle to include closed captioning in conjunction with television broadcasting or to develop and use teletypewriters on existing telephone lines are any indication, it will be a long and protracted process [both those examples are examined at length by Karen Strauss]. And one that begins, first and foremost, in locations/organizations that receive federal funding/support. The most well known example of this would be the physical accommodations required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it has also been defined in terms of telecommunications access (AT&T, for instance, prohibited the use of discarded teletype machines by members of the deaf community and charged deaf users high rates for use of telephone services they couldn’t access while they experienced diminished accessibility to police/fire/safety services – all of which had to be overturned through a protracted legal process).

I wonder what accessibility on the web will come to look like and if the CVAA is the first step in that direction. Will it follow the same path as accommodations required by/for some, but not all – or are we moving into a new arena with a distinct set of problems and solutions?

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