Restricted Access: Media, Disability, and the Politics of Participation

Regulating Digital Media Accessibility: #CaptionTHIS

The first chapter considers access as it is shaped by formal and informal types of regulation. Regulation may occur through formal channels of policy and enforcement, as well as through informal procedures and community practices. In the case of web and digital media accessibility, regulation entails competing frameworks and differing understandings of what constitutes access. Most forms of regulation have focused on accessibility as primarily a technological phenomenon, involving the compatibility of hardware and software. However, this is not always the perspective taken by users of accessibility features, who may be more concerned with accessibility as a matter of rights, options, personal expression, or cultural relevance.

This chapter analyzes the history of web accessibility in relation to the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Guidelines (1.0 and 2.0), the federal Access Board's standards for the enforcement of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.

An overview of the kinds of accessibility practices required by these formal standards is seen in the results of running an accessibility check on The New York Times homepage.

Additionally, this chapter considers informal venues for regulation: activist communities, such as that formed by the #CaptionTHIS Twitter protest in 2013; the internal standards and best practices established by individual corporations, as well as industry organizations; and the ways in which accessibility professionals regulate their own field of practice.

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