The MFA DE&I Council would like to see an industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported, and safe to do their best work. Let’s meet the Changers who are sharing their own lived experiences to inspire us all to change for the better.
I’ve just graduated high school and, like many of my peers, a big focus at the moment is which university I’ll be attending, along with potential job prospects. In the back of my mind though, there’s always the question of where the next barrier to access might appear. I have low vision, which makes accessing most digital media consistently challenging.
I use social media platforms daily, as a viewer and creator. I’m an athlete competing at an international level, an aspiring writer, and a young person keeping in touch with friends and family.
However, for those of us with low vision or blindness, a lack of accessibility can be both a day-to-day inconvenience, and also have serious consequences – like severe eyestrain, migraines, and significant impacts on our education and career options.
Inadequate access is also isolating in a world and a media scene so heavily driven by visual stimuli. This is particularly relevant for disabled youth, as digital media can facilitate invaluable community and connection… but only if we can actually access it.
It’s my experience that accessibility is often an afterthought, rather than a core pillar of the development process for content or interfaces. As disabled users and consumers, we are easily disadvantaged and excluded by inaccessible platforms or posts. I’m often limited and frustrated by a lack of audio description on a friend’s video, or the clunky navigation of a site when it’s not compatible with my screen’s zoom-in feature. Furthermore, I’ll regularly avoid certain news sites and platforms because I know their inaccessible layout will lead to eyestrain and a headache.
The solution? In part, the effective use of adjustments like audio description, large text, and increased contrast.
How to improve media accessibility
I believe platforms and content creators could both be doing more to improve access for people with low vision and blindness. Like many facets of disability in our society, people need to better understand the importance of these adjustments.
1. For platforms, this could mean actively promoting the importance of accessible content. Ideally, it would also mean implementing changes to interfaces that help these adaptations become habits, such as making the alt-text option more visible.
2.For content creators and brands, it’s about becoming educated on the importance of accessibility – learning how different audiences engage with content, and therefore creating with inclusive intention.
Even small changes could do so much good. However, these practical changes are only part of the solution. Every step also needs to be taken with an open, collaborative mindset.
I often witness the misconception that “accessibility” is about giving people special treatment. This is so far from the truth. A common denominator in the story of nearly every disabled person I know is that society feels we operate a step behind. Improved accessibility has the power to catch us up.
It’s not special treatment. It’s about equity, and the combination of practical adaptations and open conversations about accessibility that will lead to real change.
Zara Perry is a vision-impaired athlete who hopes to represent Australia in the Paralympics.