More than a billion people –– or about 15% of the world’s population –– experience some form of disability.
Today’s professionals looking to build the best, most engaging experiences keep accessibility and inclusivity top of mind, and seek to proactively accommodate everyone in their audience as part of helping the world feel closer.
3Play Media is an accessibility services platform that includes live captioning and translation. Dustin Feldman, a member of the platform’s enterprise sales team, and Sloan Kendall, senior director for strategic alliances and channels, joined us for an open conversation on accessibility.
Read on to hear from Dustin and Sloan on why accessibility matters and how the event community can keep it front of mind.
How far-reaching is the impact of accessibility?
Sloan: Hundreds of millions of people are impacted by accessibility issues.
Forty-eight million Americans are hard of hearing. Globally, that number is 430 million.
Twenty-four million Americans are blind or low-vision. Globally, that number is 254 million.
Think of how event organizers have relied on live and recorded video for launching products and driving customer success –– all while the 10-20% of Americans with disabilities might be inhibited in their ability to engage with that content at all without appropriate accommodations. That’s a major part of the market that’s locked out.
There’s also more than $1.2 billion of annual disposable income belonging to people with disabilities that’s lost when we don’t make content accessible.
Why does accessibility matter when it comes to event experiences?
Dustin: Accessibility helps more people participate in more experiences. I’ve been wearing hearing aids since I was five-and-a-half years old.
Overcoming daily challenges has shown me the importance of getting the encouragement and support to perform the very best I can. Whether someone is deaf, blind, has low-vision, has ADHD, or needs another accommodation, everyone can have a positive impact on the world around them.
If you can help even a percentage of people who are deaf or hard of hearing perform better, for example, you’re going to get insights that unlock a new section of your brain, help create new communities, yield better products, and lead to positive change.
Sloan: Accessibility is also a legal requirement. Our hope is that we eventually live in a world where we don’t need to rely on legal standards or compliance requirements to get accommodations for those who need them, but it’s not universal yet.
Right now, the requirements shaping accommodations across all forms of media and communication are:
- The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which is a foundational anti-discrimination law in the United States that also applies to web accessibility. It requires, among other things, audio descriptions and captioning.
- Section 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires that live video is live captioned.
- And The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), which requires closed captioning for online video content that was originally broadcast on TV with captions.
Beyond that, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the international standard for web accessibility. There are three levels:
- A: The most achievable level, and considered the baseline. It requires captions that are 99% accurate.
- AA: The legal standard referenced in lawsuits, and what most people aim for. It requires audio descriptions and live captions.
- AAA: The highest level of accessibility.
Brands who have failed to be accessible have faced lawsuits and negative brand impact. But that aside, content that’s accessible is also more engaging. Per Verizon customer research, 50% of viewers expect captions on videos now.
How can event organizers make accessibility a priority?
Dustin: Ask about accommodations and be flexible in providing them.
When I was young, basketball was a huge part of my life. It taught me how to make calls, how to have a good awareness of my surroundings, and how to be on offense when I need to. I’ve used all these skills on and off the court.
Consider this: When I was 11 years old, I went to Michael Jordan’s basketball camp in Chicago. It was awesome. I got to meet Michael Jordan, but I couldn’t hear a single thing he said.
I walked away realizing that if I wanted to hear and understand what was happening, I’d have to be on offense. I would’ve had to figure out what I needed for accommodations with the camp organizers before the event even started.
If you can get ahead of moments like that, you’re off to a good start.
The best thing I see across different event experiences is organizers who don’t make attendees ask for accommodations, but instead ask their audience what they need ahead of time: Do you require any accommodations? If so, do these meet your expectations? Let us know what we can do to help you.
For instance, you might have assigned front-row seating for people who need to be up close to hear as well as they can or read lips. Or, you might have screens with American Sign Language interpreters and zoomed-in views of speakers with live captioning.
As soon as you get a line of sight on what your audience needs, how much content is going to be produced, and what your speaker line-up looks like, bring in accessibility providers.
Whether video is live or recorded, for example, you want ample time to build in things like transcripts, captions, and translations for a global audience.
Tap into technology to make your experiences more accessible
As we collectively continue to learn about and implement accommodations that open up experiences to more people, tapping into technology can help.