The most popular accessibility stories of 2015

Wednesday, 23 December 2015 14:42pm

As the year comes to a close, here’s a look back at some of the most popular articles and events regarding consumer accessibility across the web, digital technology, education, TV, video, cinema, arts, policy and research in 2015.

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Web

Coles web accessibility case settled

Gisele Mesnage, founder and co-ordinator of the Digital Gap Initiative, brought forward a landmark case against grocery retailer Coles for the alleged visual inaccessibility of its online shopping service in late 2014. The case was settled in February this year, after a joint agreement was reached between both parties to ensure accessibility improvements are continuously applied to the Coles website.

YouTube allows fans to contribute video captions

YouTube released a new feature with potential to overtake the auto-captions feature in November 2015, allowing community members to contribute closed captions to videos on supported channels. This article provides an overview of YouTube’s new ‘community captions’ feature and CEO Alex Varley’s thoughts on the world’s largest online video platform becoming more accessible for people who are Deaf or hearing impaired.

iTunes Australia offering audio described movies

In late September, a quiet development in the availability of audio described movies for IPhones, iPads and Mac computers was released from Apple onto the iTunes store in Australia. This article outlines which movies are available with audio description on iTunes and how to access them on your device.

Digital Technology

Samsung boosts smartphone accessibility with Galaxy Talkback for the S6 and S6 Edge

Samsung’s Galaxy S range of smartphones received a significant accessibility upgrade when it launched in April this year, including the new Galaxy Talkback screen reader amongst several new accessibility options. This article outlines the new features on offer and provides a full list of one, two and three finger gestures for Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge devices.

Windows 10 Home and Pro – hands-on accessibility test

Shortly after the launch of Windows 10 in July 2015, Dr Scott Hollier put together his thoughts, findings and hands-on impressions regarding the accessibility of Microsoft's latest operating system. In this review, Dr Hollier outlines new features found in Microsoft’s Edge web browser, the usability of Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana (which has since been updated to support Australian users), changes to the Windows interface and improvements to existing Ease of Access settings.

Virtual reality (VR): Accessing its potential

We looked at the possibilities of using virtual reality to increase access to media for people with disabilities across cinema, arts, gaming, video, education and the web in January 2015. With major providers like Oculus VR, Samsung and HTC preparing to launch their mainstream VR devices in 2016, now is a better time than ever to start thinking about the ways in which virtual reality can change the game in providing access for people with disabilities.

Education

CAP THAT! recap

In June 2015, we launched our annual CAP THAT! campaign with a simple message: turn the captions on when watching video content in class. This year we focused on the significance of using captions to benefit even more students, including students with English as an Additional Language, those who have reading difficulties, and children on the autism spectrum, as well as students who are Deaf or hearing impaired. Amongst Australian schools nationwide, this equates to over one million kids.

Think ‘Smart’ – IEP goals for access

An important aspect of work for teachers includes creating learning goals for students, on a class-wide and at times individual basis. This article explains why it is imperative that teachers include goals for all students in regard to media access and technology through SMART techniques, utilising accessible media for diverse learners to ensure access to the curriculum.

iPads, and improved access to education

In March 2015, we spoke to Lyn Robinson, Assistive Technology Teacher and Principal Researcher on the iPad Project, to learn about how tablet computers are helping students with disabilities better access education. Lyn discussed challenges that students with vision impairments face when accessing the curriculum, previous technologies used for access, details about the iPad Project and overall benefits for students.

TV & Video

Netflix launches in Australia with captions

Video-on-demand (VOD) giant Netflix made its Australian debut in March, with high expectations for the inclusion of accessibility prior to its release. On launch day, we tested 50 TV episodes and 50 movies, confirming that 100% were captioned, and this was shortly followed by an announcement that audio description would also be introduced to the service, starting with the TV series Daredevil. This article covers the official Australian launch day, results from our accessibility testing and our further reporting into VOD access.

Caption reporting retained as communications amendment bill passes House of Reps

A bill to amend sections of the Broadcasting Services Act, including some sections relating to captioning, was passed in the House of Representatives in February. Importantly, amendments to the original bill meant that broadcasters have to continue reporting on captioning compliance, while a scheduled review of the captioning rules will go ahead in 2016.

ABC launches trial of audio description on iview

In April, the ABC launched a trial of audio description on its online catch-up TV service iview. The trial will continue until the end of June 2016, during which 14 hours of audio described programs will be added to iview each week.

Cinema & Arts

Handel’s Messiah live streamed and accessible

Earlier this month, the Sydney Opera House provided a live-streamed, fully-accessible version of Handel’s Messiah from the building’s Concert Hall via YouTube. The concert featured an Auslan choir, whilst the streaming service provided live captioning and live audio description for people who tuned in over the internet.

Choosing accessible movie sessions

With so many big movies being released for the Christmas season, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World and Arthur Christmas, it’s important for people with a hearing or vision impairment to find out the most accessible way to experience them, in a cinema session offering captions or audio description.

Museum audio described online

A common approach for museums and galleries is to provide tours and information online, so that people who do not live in the place where it is located can still access parts of their collection. The British Museum in London has taken this to a new dimension by offering audio description of some of its objects online.

Research & Policy

The future of live captioning

Will machines take over the captioning world and automatically provide perfect captions on live programs, events, meetings and the classroom? Or are future changes going to be more subtle than that? In this article, CEO Alex Varley identifies six key areas where changes in technology and standards may have an impact on live captioning.

Better audio description through consultation

A basic rule of research is that if you want to know what somebody thinks about your product, the best thing to do is ask them. It is surprising how little that approach is taken with access services, including audio description for blind people, which makes recent initiatives by Pixar in the US and Ericsson in Australia all the more welcome.

Making access work in the New World

Access to media through audio description and captioning is well established through most of Europe, North America and the English-speaking world. However, the situation in other parts of the globe is very mixed. Reporting in Australia is, not surprisingly, biased towards English language developments and advances. What is happening in other parts of the world, especially in Asia?


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