IRIS Plus 2014-3: Enabling Access to the Media for All
Author: Cristina Bachmeier, Institute for European Media Law (EMR), Saarbrücken/Brussels
When it comes to barriers to accessing information and to culture for people with disabilities, the concept becomes immediately multifaceted. Depending on how content as such is conceived, whether it is a library with stairs before an entrance door or an immaterial file requiring the command of additional technological equipment, the concept of a barrier may take on different meanings and require the use of different tools.
Most physical barriers seem to have been overcome, but there is still work to be done to ensure that the same can be said of the electronic world. On the one hand, the issue of architectural barriers has been discussed over decades with many tangible results; on the other hand, digital barriers still exist, indicating that complete access to soft content has not yet been achieved.
This is even more complex in the online world, where prior knowledge is necessary not only to allow access to content, but also to interact and to fully experience the 2.0 dimension. The dual dimension of the Internet, where users are both passive recipients of information provided by third parties and active contributors in their capacity as content providers, makes it necessary to broaden the scope of investigation.
The Lead Article of this IRIS plus offers an in-depth and entertaining exploration of the different approaches that have been followed at various levels (international or European, national or local) by different means (regulatory or voluntary). The result is a collage of best practices and good examples, but it nonetheless shows that merely adopting the toolkit set up for linear media is insuffi cient to ensure a truly barrierfree Internet.
Considering the many years of regulatory initiatives on this issue, the Related Reporting section is particularly rich. It gives a factual overview of recent developments on broadcasting and copyright legislation concerning people with disabilities, and of recent case law on media and disabilities.
The fi nal Zoom section provides comprehensive details of the practice in Germany. From an insider’s perspective, Lenke and Biehl lead us through what happens in recording studios when work is done on subtitling and audio descriptions, and give us food for thought when outlining the various delivery methods and discussing development potentials from a technological perspective.