Nickie Coby (puppybraille) wrote,
Nickie Coby
puppybraille

Accessible social media: It's not just for fun anymore.

Today, in two of my classes, we ended up using videos found on
YouTube
While I can't speak to the legality of the clips of at least one of them being there, I can say that there were good reasons for using them in the classroom. And it drove home a point, which I already knew, that accessibility of these new medias is going to be vital for things other than recreation.

I want to say up front that I think recreation is a perfectly valid reason to have accessibility. I believe that people with disabilities need access to everything and we deserve a just as much of life as the next person.

But more than ever, I'm seeing that it's going to be vital to not have things preventing us from accessing media. One of the videos, for example, was completely printed information on AIDS in Africa. The result was probably stunning, but it meant that one of the presenters in our class had to read the text not only for me, but anyone else who had trouble reading the text. Obviously, captioning is good and important, but the video would've been just as good, or better with an added narrator reading the script.

The other video was easier to follow, and I don't really know if I missed anything. But by the same token, I've watched movies, thought I missed nothing and realized that there was so much more to the visual presentation once I heard it described. And if I wanted to use that for a paper, I would be out of luck, as it stands.

Another area where access to social media is going to be important is in crisis planning. I read
Virginia Tech: Social Media in Crisis Planning
on BlogHer, and thought "This could actually be great for students with visual impairments if it was used properly." Okay, I probably wasn't that eloquent when I was thinking that, but whatever. The thing is, if a R.A. writes something on a whiteboard and isn't able to inform me, I may miss vital information.

Right now, if there is some kind of danger, people try to inform me. One of the women from the disability services office on campus emails me if she knows that there will be construction or something. But if she isn't informed, the link breaks down. And if she isn't there, it also breaks down. If, say, text messaging were set up in a mass-message scenario where campus security could send us all text messages at once, or some other media, that might solve some of the problem. But then, that assumes that everyone has a text messaging system they can use, which we can't guarantee.

Can facebook, Twitter and other sites help fill some of the void? That depends on a lot of factorss. But that's why it's vital services be accessible. Right now, I'm only able to access campus email through a forwarding system that sends the email to my personal account, because our school's web mail is inaccessible. I won't even go into how much that frustrates me, because that would be a novel or three. The point is, though, that sets up one more link in the chain that can be broken.

Twitter
and other services still have captchas that are inaccessible to people with visual impairments. Not everyone has the option of asking a friend or family member or colleague to help them sign up, and that is an insulting option, in my opinion. And it's not like there isn't information out there, either. It's kind of like saying "People can come here in wheelchairs, as long as they have friends to carry them up the stairs."

I think social media like YouTube, Del.icio.us, Twitter and other services have a really cool chance to be more ways for us to express ourselves, make friends, get information and live our lives. Like all options, there are positives and negatives to new technologies. But it will always be important that we get to have access to the new stuff.

I'm tired, and probably should've waited to write about this until I was thinking from the perspective of being more awake, but these are initial thoughts. A few resources to check out on the subject of accessibility:
All Access Blogging
Blind Access Journal
The Desert Skies Blog

Tags: blogs, college, disability related, guide dogs
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