Accessibility – what’s in store for Australians with a disability in 2011?

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Tuesday, 4 January 2011 13:57pm

What progress can Australians who are Deaf, hearing impaired, blind or vision impaired expect in access to media in 2011?

Here is Part 1 of Media Access Australia’s top ten predictions and wishes:

  1. More set-top boxes and TVs will appear with audio menus.

    The Federal Government’s Digital TV Taskforce has commissioned a set-top box with audio menus as part of its Household Assistance Scheme. The manufacturers involved, Hills and Skybridge, said that this could lead to them including audio menus on models released here as standard.

    “This would be a great win for people who are blind or vision impaired,” says Chris Mikul, TV Project Manager at Media Access Australia (MAA). 

    “A talking set-top box, the Goodman’s Smart Talk is already available in the UK, so a precedent has been set.”
  1. Captions will appear on more download versions of TV program sites.

    “ABC’s iView is leading the way, being the first network in Australia with a comprehensive caption service,” says Alex Varley, CEO of MAA. 

    Several overseas streaming video sites, including the BBC’s iPlayer and Hulu TV (USA), are expected to launch international services in 2011, and this may also be followed by Yahoo 7 providing captions on its downloads. 
  2. Greater awareness of the need for website accessibility.

    The Federal Government announced in 2010 that all of its websites will need to be compliant with the latest international web accessibility standards by December 2014. As a result, awareness of this important issue will increase amongst web developers.

    “MAA will be working with developers and the government to help build industry knowledge on meeting the guidelines, helping to make more information accessible on the web to everyone,” says Natalie Collins, MAA’s Deputy CEO
  3. More accessible software for smartphones and other portable web products.

    “With Microsoft having an emergency meeting with blind groups including the American Foundation for the Blind and the RNIB (UK) earlier this year about Windows Phone 7,” says Dr Scott Hollier, MAA’s  Project Manager and Western Australia Manager, “Microsoft have committed to improving the accessibility of this platform.”

    Progress is also being made with accessibility of the free Android platform, commonly used on some phones, netbooks and iPad-like devices.
  4. More affordable computers.

    “The other promising trend for 2011 is the improvement in affordability of computers and smart phones,” says Dr Hollier.

    “2010 saw a dramatic price drop for netbooks, and hopefully accessible devices like the iPad and the iPhone will become cheaper in 2011. This will allow more people with disabilities to do more things on the go.”

Part 2 of MAA's predictions will be posted tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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